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At Long Last Larry!

New York
The Metropolitan Opera
12/12/2011 -  and December 15, 19, 24, 29, 2011, January 2*, 2012
Gaetano Donizetti: La Fille du régiment
Nino Machaidze (Marie), Lawrence Brownlee (Tonio), Ann Murray (Marquise of Berkenfield), Maurizio Muraro (Sulpice), Kiri Te Kanawa (Duchess of Krakenthorp), James Courtney (Hortensius), Roger Andrews (Corporal), Mark Persing (Townsman), Jack Wetherall (Notary)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Donald Palumbo (Chorus Master), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Yves Abel (Conductor)
Laurent Pelly (Production & Costume Design), Chantal Thomas (Set Design), Joël Adam (Lighting Design), Laura Scozzi (Choreographer), Agathe Mélinand (Associate Director)

L. Brownlee (© Marty Sohl/The Metropolitan Opera)

In New York and in London, at the Royal Opera House, which shares this marvelous Laurent Pelly production, the role of Tonio has been identified with the wonderful Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Flórez. In fact, two seasons ago, when I reviewed the opera, while Flórez was the scheduled Tonio, at the performance immediately before the one I reviewed, he was indisposed. Lawrence Brownlee stepped in on just a few hours notice, learned all the dialogue and, by all accounts, had a very successful outing. This season, however, Brownlee is the Met’s Tonio and he gave a performance that was superb in every respect.

He was utterly charming, uniting a comical physical awkwardness with his emotionally-expressive and glowing tenor. He seemed to be the gawkish lad always picked last for sports suddenly, miraculously, finding himself accepted as a lover, a soldier and a hero. This feeling was profoundly summarized in his rendition of “Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête,” which, while delivering all the usual thrilling vocal fireworks, also conveyed Tonio’s profound joy and amazement at his newfound status on a very emotional level.

As Marie, Nino Machaidze, was an enthusiastic and energetic tomboy. Even Tonio did not seem to bring out much of her softer side. She sang with a bright, muscular voice, quite pleasing in timbre, especially in the middle, although she did tend to power through her coloratura in tomboy fashion. Dramatically, she was lacking in vulnerability and vocally, particularly in the demanding coloratura passages, she was missing the crystalline and effortless quality of her predecessors. She did have good comic instincts and interacted very well with Brownlee.

(© Marty Sohl /The Metropolitan Opera)

In her Met role debut as the Marquise of Berkenfield, Ann Murray also proved an excellent comic actor. She brought both vocal and physical elegance to the role, and seemed quite adrift in the war-torn world outside her parlor walls. In the role of Sulpice, Maurizio Murano was as marvelous vocally and comically as he was two years ago and he had a wonderful interplay with Murray. James Courtney was a suitably snooty and always charming butler. Kiri Te Kanawa reprised her role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp with style and aplomb. Despite this being a speaking role, she interpolated “O fior del giorno” from Puccini’s Edgar to the great delight of the nostalgic Met audience. The chorus of proud papas were in marvelous form and clearly enjoying themselves. The Met orchestra, under the baton of Yves Abel, gave voice to every ravishing detail of this utterly beautiful and charming score and were by turns sprightly and tender. What a joy it is to have this production back at the Met.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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