On the big screen this weekend at Il Teatro Buce was Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment in a new production from
Not least of the fun was watching the notoriously picky Italian audience at play, or perhaps at work. They were chillingly standoffish through the first third of the show—no hoots and catcalls, but a numbing sort of reserve. Not a big surprise, I guess: we had a mod staging with French text and (sacre bleu!) American soldiers. It didn’t make any sense and the Italians were not in a forgiving mood.
But Florez broke through their reserve when he nailed nine high C’s in “Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!“ I don’t recall ever hearing an Italian audience uncork it so completely.
One beneficiary, perhaps unintended but richly deserving, was Florez’ leading lady, Patrizia Ciofi, hitherto unknown to me. I thought she was a marvel and the audience, loosened up by Florez’ pyrotechnics, proved suitably receptive. Ciofi had a tough assignment: anyone in the role works in the shadow of Joan Sutherland who owned it for so long (just as Pavoratti owned Florez’). Sutherland is a marvel, but she is very nearly grotesque; Ciofi is more human, and humane. She’s earthy, insinuating, flirtatious—and tough enough to match the mostly male cast.
I see from her fansite that Ciofi is an Italian who doesn’t sing in
Amazon reviewers cluck about a “modernization” to World War II, and complain that it doesn’t make any sense. Strictly speaking, they are right: it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But this is a comic opera after all—more than that, a determinedly silly comic opera, and a little incoherence isn’t really a big issue.