Beverly Sills Index Page

La Fille du Régiment Video Recording Review

American Record Guide, Sept-Oct 2002 v65 i5 p250(1) by Ralph V. Lucano

In a brief interview, Sills describes Daughter of the Regiment as “a silly little story, one long episode of Lucille Ball. I play [Marie] as Lucille Ball with high notes.” That may tell you what to expect here. Except for one or two unavoidably poignant moments, the opera is milked for laughs. The characters ham it up shamelessly the acting is often cartoonish–an effect emphasized by the flat, painted sets and the colorful costumes. Sourpuss that I am, I would prefer the comedy to be less broad; but maybe it didn’t seem so overdone in the theater. The characters’ heavy makeup and exaggerated facial expressions need also to be seen at a greater distance.

The performance is in English, a great advantage in the spoken dialog, but the level of clarity is remarkable even in the sung passages. The supporting players act well, especially Costa-Greenspon, who has the vocal strength to back up her more frenzied effusions. Malas made something of a specialty of Sulpice (he recorded it for Decca with Sutherland and Pavarotti and sang a couple of performances at the Met), and he moves comfortably on stage. McDonald is a stiffer actor, though amiable enough. His voice is bright and keenly focussed, with the timbre we associate with the typical Irish tenor. He sings his high Cs without breaking a sweat, articulating the words cleanly even in the stratosphere. He lacks something in tonal variety and strength, sounding too feeble in the final scene when the regiment rushes in to rescue Mane.

The heroine herself is sometimes fluttery and pallid, but the trills are wonderful, the coloratura is dazzling, the high notes are in place, and the acting is enthusiastic. I can imagine better orchestral playing and more dynamic conducting, but you won’t notice all that much: it’s the singers’ show, and everyone is having a great time.

The sound is not perfect. The voices are recorded at too low a level; when you boost the volume to bring them closer, the thumping stage noises become deafening. No subtitles–you probably won’t miss them.