Today we’re listening to…
“Ah! mes mis, quel jour de fête!” a tenor aria from Act I of the French opera La Fille du Régiment by Gaetano Donizetti. This aria requires the tenor (the highest naturally occurring voice type in adult males) to sing nine high C’s in only two minutes😳 I feel confident in saying that there are only a handful of tenors who can sing them perfectly. Larry Brownlee is one of those tenors. He is singing the role of Tonio (toe-NYOH) here, and like I’ve mentioned in the past, opera is a sport, and these are world-class athletes! Larry’s voice is undeniably beautiful, and he is hands down one of the best bel canto tenors alive. Bel canto (which means “beautiful singing” in Italian) is a style that has two main features: 1) very fast melodies that highlight the agility and flexibility of the singer’s voice, 2) slower, more sustained passages that highlight the singer’s stamina and control. You will hear both of these in this aria.
🎧 Listen here (4 minute listen):
The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Régiment in French) takes place in Tyrol, a region in the Alps, in the early nineteenth century. The story is about Marie, who has fallen in love with Tonio, who is from a rival nation. Tonio joins the regiment to marry Marie, and at the beginning of this aria, he approaches some of the members and explains that he has joined because he loves the regiment’s “daughter”. In the cabaletta “Pour mon âme”, after asking the members of the regiment to allow him to marry Marie and receiving a resounding “yes!”, Tonio sings about his happiness of finally being united with his love. He promises to take care of her and protect her forever.
What a prospect lies before me!
Her heart is mine and so is her hand!
O happy day!
Here I am, enlisted and engaged!
I am a soldier, I am a soldier,
I can claim her now!
The Duchess of Krakenthorp is a speaking role in opera. Several non-singing celebrities have played the part, including Kathleen Turner at the Metropolitan Opera in 2018 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Washington National Opera in 2016.
La Fille du Régiment is an example of “opéra comique,” a genre that features spoken text between individual songs. Unlike recitative (the spoken-like singing used for dialogue in opera), this spoken text is not accompanied by music. Despite the name “comic opera,” these pieces didn’t necessarily have to be funny; Bizet’s Carmen, a famously tragic opera, originally featured spoken dialogue and was labeled an opéra comique. The term is also the name of an opera house in Paris where operas of this genre were performed and La Fille du Régiment premiered in 1840.
I think the La Fille du Regiment is one of the greatest recordings Luciano Pavarotti ever made. While I prefer Larry(!), you can listen to Pavarotti sing the aria here.
Thank you for listening,