Major Operas | La fille du régiment by Gaetano Donizetti | Early Romantic
Donizetti’s opéra comique La fille du régiment acquired its French title because of its French librettists, Jules-Henri Vernoy, Marquis de Saint-Georges (1799–1875) and Jean-François-Alfred Bayard (1796–1853), and its first night was at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 11 February 1840.
La fille, which was set in the Tirol, in Austria during the Napoleonic Wars was Donizetti’s first French opera and one of his greatest successes. In 1840 it ran for 44 performances. The opera’s Italian premiere took place at La Scala, Milan on 3 October, followed by New Orleans in 1843 and London in 1847.
Premiered: 1840, Paris
Libretto by J. F. A. Bayard and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges
As villagers pray for protection from the Napoleonic forces, the Marquise of Berkenfield, forced to take a detour on her way home, arrives at the village. Sergeant Sulpice of the 21st Regiment enters, with Marie, their vivandière. She was found on the battlefield as a baby and had been raised by the regiment. Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with. She explains that the man, Tonio, saved her from falling off a cliff. Just then, soldiers enter with Tonio; he has been discovered in the camp and arrested as a spy. Marie explains that he is her rescuer and saves him from execution. Tonio is taken away, but manages to return and he and Marie sing of their love for each other.
The marquise asks Suplice to ensure her safe conduct to Berkenfield. The name Berkenfield reminds Suplice of Captain Robert, a former officer; it also appeared on the birth papers found with Marie. The marquise declares that her sister was married to Captain Robert and that Marie is her niece. She insists on taking her back to Berkenfield, to live a more ladylike existence. Tonio has joined the regiment to be near Marie. The other soldiers accept him, having learned that she returns his love. However, Suplice enters with Marie and announces that she is to leave with the marquise. Marie is pleased that Tonio has joined the regiment. The soldiers express their sorrow at her departure and bid her farewell.
The marquise has arranged for Marie to marry the Duke of Crakentorp, to which Marie has reluctantly agreed. The marquise summons Sulpice to encourage Marie; together they sing the regimental song, to the marquise’s distaste. Although Marie has tried to please the marquise, she misses the military life to which she is accustomed and still loves Tonio. Suplice reminds her that she is the marquise’s niece and must do as she says. Marie hears the sound of marching in the distance and the 21st Regiment appears, including Tonio, whose bravery has earned him the post of officer. He tells the marquise of his love for Marie, but she will not change her plans. She confesses to Sulpice that Marie is in fact her illegitimate daughter; marrying the...
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