Opening Nights: The Daughter of the Regiment

The Daughter of the Regiment

McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 389-7676, $25 and up. 7:30 p.m. Wed. & Sat., plus Fri., Nov. 1. Ends Nov. 2.

Seattle Opera brings a light touch to Donizetti’s 1840 opera, harmlessly updating the setting to France at the end of World War II—primarily, I’m guessing, so that soprano Sarah Coburn can look smashing in Julio Galán’s costumes, like a honey-blonde Andrews Sister. She plays the title role, Marie, who as a foundling was raised by an army platoon but who discovers she’s an heiress, jeopardizing her romance with Tonio—Lawrence Brownlee, who’s come to own SO’s bel canto tenor roles. Solid throughout, they both sounded best in their slow arias—especially Coburn’s two laments, at the end of Act 1 (a balm after 45 minutes of Donizetti’s martial fanfares and snare drums) and the start of Act 2. In the first she’s teamed with a solo English horn (Stefan Farkas), in the second a cello (Terri Benshoof), and her way with a long line shows her the instrumentalists’ equal in control and pathos-drenched, expansive phrasing. The role of Tonio is notorious for the showpiece “Ah, mes amis,” full of high Cs, but, as Brownlee pointed out, his “Pour me rapprocher” is harder yet, and the audience’s response was even warmer.

SO veteran Joyce Castle is adorable as Marie’s aunt the Marquise. Baritone Alexander Hajek is lively and nimble as regimental officer Sulpice; I’d love to see him back in any number of comic baritone roles. This airy beignet is flavored with one splendid touch of camp: The Duchess of Krackenthorp—a speaking part, often a cameo for a grande dame (Bea Arthur and Hermione Gingold have played her)—gets a drag turn from tenor Peter Kazaras, swathed in violet. Imagine Harvey Fierstein as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

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