La fille du régiment - Royal Opera House, 25 April 2012
Once you discover why the chicken crossed the road, the joke swiftly grows stale. Several viewings down the line, I feel the same way about Laurent Pelly’s production. The dancing underpants, the drag charladies, even the armoured tank are all funny, but they rely on novelty for their impact. And if the visual humour doesn’t hit the mark, Pelly’s splashy shallows leave little else to savour. Only the lucky first-timers (a fair proportion of Wednesday’s audience judging by the guffaws) can have had their ribs comprehensively tickled.
At least the underpants got a bigger laugh than the incomprehensibly cast Ann Widdecombe as the Duchesse de Crackentorp. Substituting ineptitude for imperiousness and plain bad French for the stagey Franglais that might have been funny, she was toe-curlingly dreadful. Mistimed, off target asides about Cornish pasties and the Olympics only exacerbated the agony.
Some people more sensible than me ran a mile once they saw Widdy’s name on the cast list. Even if the ROH are indifferent to matters of taste and competence, they might want to consider the impact on sales before they stick another ex-politician on the stage.
The professional members of the cast were uniformly excellent. Colin Lee is a sweeter, more naïve Tonio than JDF ever was, but this works in his favour. He sang the part securely and sympathetically, his top Cs never in the least doubt.
Patrizia Ciofi impersonated Natalie Dessay’s tomboy Marie with more spunk than real conviction. A more ladylike conception might suit her soft-grained sound better, but she sang gamely and stylishly. Unrecognisable in Sulpice’s fat suit, Alan Opie had the comic timing Ann Widdecombe would die for, and Ann Murray reprised her formidable Marquise de Berkenfeld. The well-oiled machine of the ROH chorus turned into peasants and infantry with the skill of well-honed habit.
I've heard the orchestra play better, but Yves Abel kept up a lively pace, and only the overlong spoken sections really dragged.
production photos (above) - Bill Cooper / Royal Opera House
curtain call photos (below) - intermezzo.typepad.com
Here's Kyoko's curtain call video from the show on the 27th: