Xabier Anduaga with his 18 high Cs triumphs as Tonio in his home town of San Sebastián

SpainSpain Donizetti, La fille du régiment: Easo Chorus, Euskadi Orchestra / Lucas Macías (conductor). Kursaal, San Sebastián, 12.8.2022. (JMI)

Xabier Anduaga (Tonio) and Elena Sancho Pereg (Marie)

Director – Guillermo Amaya
Sets – Enrique Sancho
Costumes – Raquel Porter
Lighting – Ion Anibal

Marie – Elena Sancho-Pereg
Tonio – Xabier Anduaga
Sergeant Sulpice – Damián del Castillo
Marquise de Berkenfield – Anna Alàs y Jové
Duchess of Krakenthorp – Paula Iraragorri
Hortensius – Juan Laborería
Corporal – Darío Maya
Notary – Gerardo Quintana

After two years of absence due to the pandemic, opera has returned to the Quincena Musical, and it did so with Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment featuring two local singers in the main roles.

This can be considered a popular opera although it is not seen frequently in the world’s opera houses. For me, it is a work that does not have much musical interest, although there are important moments such as the two arias for the tenor (‘Ah, mes amis’ and ‘Pour me raprocher de Marie’) as well as one for the soprano (‘Il faut partir’). That first tenor aria and its always-anticipated nine high Cs are the fundamental reason for its popularity.

This performance had been announced as semi-staged, which usually means an orchestra on stage and the absence of sets and costumes. In San Sebastián, we were given practically a full stage performance: the orchestra was in the pit and on stage there were sets, albeit simple, well-suited costumes and even special lighting.

As the opera progressed, however, this positive surprise changed for the worse with the stage direction ending up as the great protagonist. I have nothing against the action being brought to current times, but the director, Guillermo Amaya, turned the opera into a kind of zarzuela, with spoken dialogues done in Spanish and Basque, depending on the characters who were on stage. The liberties taken with the libretto are innumerable, and an aria for the Duchess of Krakenthorp is even added, sung in Basque and having nothing to do with the opera itself.

Conductor Lucas Macías replaced the initially announced Jordi Bernácer. His conducting was of little interest, and the Euskadi Symphony Orchestra did not have a particularly brilliant night.

Sergeant Sulpice (Damián del Castillo),Elena Sancho Pereg (Marie), Xabier Anduaga (Tonio)

The characters of Marie and Tonio were performed here by local singers who already have important careers, especially in the case of the tenor. Marie, the daughter of the 21st regiment, was sung by San Sebastián soprano Elena Sancho-Pereg. She was a good interpreter, singing with gusto and moving well on stage, although her voice is somewhat reduced in size.

The character of Tonio was the one that raised the highest expectations. At 27 years of age, Xabier Anduaga has gone from being a promise to becoming a reality, in demand by the main opera houses in the world. This opera has two very different arias for Tonio. In Act I there is the already-mentioned ‘Ah, mes amis’, which requires a tenor who is easy at the top. Anduaga’s interpretation was spectacular and worthy of one of today’s most important tenors. This was also understood by the audience, and after an endless ovation there was an encore. The Act II aria ‘Pour me raprocher de Marie’ is true bel canto, and there are no fireworks. Here Anduaga was less convincing:  I missed more nuance, and he was somewhat short on emotion. In any case, his popular triumph is beyond dispute.

Sergeant Sulpice was played by baritone Damián del Castillo, who did not go beyond correctness in his interpretation where he almost had more to speak than to sing. In the secondary characters, Anna Alàs y Jové did fine as the Marquise de Berkenfield. Paula Iraragorri as the Duchess of Krakenthorp was given that song in Basque and it held little interest.

José M. Irurzun  

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