Sometimes a relationship between a child and a parent is truly uplifting. Multiply those emotions times twenty, and you experience the heartwarming plot of The Daughter of the Regiment. Broadway Director and Choreographer Robert Longbottom and Conductor Christopher Allen made their Washington National Opera debuts in a delightful and thoroughly enjoyable production.
Feisty young Marie, played in this performance by Andriana Chuchman, was orphaned on a battlefield and adopted by the 21st regiment of French soldiers. Beloved by the regiment, especially Sergeant Sulpice (Kevin Burdette), Marie grows up marching and singing alongside her “fathers.” But the men grow protective when Marie falls in love with Tonio, played in this performance by Andrew Stenson, a Tyrolean peasant who saves her life. Soon the Marquise of Berkenfeld (Deborah Nansteel) arrives, claiming to be Marie’s aunt, to take her in and give her a proper upbringing. First performed in Paris in 1840, The Daughter of the Regiment highlights the ever-familiar battle of money and respectability against true love, complete with choreographed marches, comical ballet lessons and the tender moments of first love.
Chuchman was plucky, graceful and intensely lovable as Marie. She managed to exude both femininity and boyish youthfulness, popping out high C’s effortlessly while dashing about the stage. Highlights included the Act I finale, Il faut partir/”I must leave you,” a despondent goodbye to the regiment, and Quand le destin, au milieu de la guerre /”When fate, in the confusion of war, threw me, a baby, into their arms,” an ode to the soldiers who cared for her.
Stenson hit nearly all of the nine high C’s in the opera’s most challenging aria, Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!/”Ah, my friends, what an exciting day!” But his real shining moment was his Act II aria, “Pour me rapprocher de Marie, Je me enrôlai, pauvre soldat/”In order to woo Marie, I enlisted in the ranks,” in which he navigated the passagio to pour out a sincere declaration of love. His love duet with Chuchman was also a highlight.
As the Marquise, Nansteel was imposing yet sympathetic, with a warm mezzo-soprano voice that shone in Pour une femme de mon nom / “For a lady of my family, what a time, alas, is war-time.”
Kevin Burdette was funny yet tender as the blundering Sulpice, and his rich voice and amusing facial expressions were a joy, especially in his joyful rendition of the regiment song Chacun le sait, chacun le dit/”Everyone knows it, everyone says it” with a defiant Chuchman in Act II. Though the chorus tended to rush in quicker sections of the regiment song, they redeemed themselves with their camaraderie and expressions.
James Noone’s set design featured an oval opening in the backdrop that gave a peek into the captivating Tyrolean landscape. In Act II, mountains and fields were traded for an elegant room in the Marquise’s chateau, flanked by grand pillars. Zack Brown’s vibrant costumes shone on stage, from the regiment’s regal uniforms to the Marquise’s bright magenta dress.
The Daughter of the Regiment doesn’t have a complicated plot or a grand death scene, and, save for a pointed dialogue about past leaders by the Duchess of Krakenthorp (Cindy Gold), little of the plot reflects today’s issues. But perhaps that’s what audience members needed after a divisive week in America – an enchanting escape that is charming, sincere, and full of heart. The Washington National Opera delivered.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including one 25-minute intermission.
The Daughter of the Regiment plays through Sunday, November 20, 2016, at Washington National Opera performing in The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.
Review #1: Washington National Opera’s ‘The Daughter of the Regiment’ (Opening Night Cast-11/12/16) by David Friscic.
Review #2: The Washington National Opera’s ‘The Daughter of the Regiment’ at The Kennedy Center (Cast #2: Sunday, 11/13/16) by Emily Schweich.