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La fille du regiment

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Gaetano Donizatti

The Daughter of the Regiment (French: La fille du régiment) is a comic opera in two acts. The French libretto was written by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard. The music was composed by Gaetano Donizetti. The opera is famous for the tenor aria "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" It features nine high Cs. The opera was first performed on 11 February 1840 by the Paris Opéra-Comique at the Salle de la Bourse. It was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1902/03. The role of Marie was a favorite with Jenny Lind.

Roles[change | change source]

  • Marie, a vivandière - coloratura soprano
  • Tonio, a young Tyrolean - tenor
  • Sergeant Sulpice - bass
  • Marquise of Birkenfeld - contralto
  • Hortensius, a butler - bass
  • Corporal - bass
  • Peasant - tenor
  • Duchess of Krakenthorp - spoken role
  • Notary - spoken role
  • French soldiers, Tyroleans, servants of the Duchess

Story[change | change source]

Act 1[change | change source]

The Marquise of Berkenfeld and her butler, Hortensius, are on their way to Austria. They pause in their journey because a skirmish has broken out. The Marquise learns that the French troops have retreated. She comments on the rude manners of the French people ("Pour une femme de mon nom"). The sergeant of the 21st regiment, Sulpice, assures everyone that his men will restore peace and order. He is joined by Marie, the "daughter" of the regiment. She is an orphan and was adopted by the soldiers. Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with. She explains that he is Tonio, a Tyrolean who once saved her life. Troops of the 21st arrive with a prisoner. It is Tonio. He has been looking for Marie. She steps in to save him. He toasts his new friends, and Marie sings the regimental song ("Chacun le sait"). Tonio is ordered to follow the soldiers. He escapes and returns to declare his love to Marie. Sulpice surprises them. Marie must admit to Tonio that she can marry only a soldier of the 21st.

The Marquise asks Sulpice for an escort to her castle. When Sulpice hears the name Berkenfeld, he remembers a letter he found near the young Marie on the battlefield. The Marquise soon admits that she knew the girl's father. She says that Marie is the long-lost daughter of her sister. The child had been left in the care of the Marquise, but was lost. She is shocked by the girl's rough manners. She decides to take her niece to her castle and give her a proper education. Tonio has enlisted so that he can marry Marie ("Ah, mes amis"). But Marie has to leave both her regiment and the man she loves ("Il faut partir").

Act 2[change | change source]

The Marquise has arranged a marriage between Marie and the Duke of Krakenthorp. At the Marquise's castle, Sulpice is recovering from an injury. He is supposed to be helping the Marquise with her plans. The Marquise gives Marie a singing lesson. Marie slips in phrases of the regimental song with Sulpice's encouragemment. The Marquise loses her temper (Trio: "Le jour naissait dans la bocage").

Marie is left alone. She thinks money and position are meaningless ("Par le rang et l'opulence"). She hears soldiers marching in the distance. She is delighted when the whole regiment files into the room. She leads them in singing a patriotic tribute ("Salut à la France"). Marie is reunited with Tonio. Tonio asks for Marie's hand in marriage. The Marquise is unmoved by the young man's declaration that Marie is his whole life ("Pour me rapprocher de Marie"). She says her niece is engaged to another man. She dismisses Tonio. The Marquise and Sulpice are left alon. She confesses the truth: Marie is her illegitimate daughter. She abandoned Marie long ago, fearing social disgrace.

Hortensius announces the arrival of the wedding party. It is led by the groom's mother, the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Marie refuses to leave her room. Sulpice tells her that the Marquise is her mother. The surprised girl says she cannot go against her mother's wishes. She agrees to marry a man that she does not love. She is about to sign the marriage contract when the soldiers of the 21st, led by Tonio, storm in to rescue their "daughter". The guests are horrified to learn that Marie was a canteen girl. They change their opinion when she tells them that she can never repay the debt she owes the soldiers. The Marquise is so moved by her daughter's goodness of heart that she gives her permission to marry Tonio. Everyone joins in a final "Salut à la France".

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