Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment aims to please and it succeeds, with its catchy tunes, wildly difficult showpieces for the principles, and a simple, if also simplistic, narrative line. This 2005 live performance at Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice features virtuoso singing by tenor Juan Diego Flórez as Tonio and soprano Patrizia Ciofi, as Marie, the "daughter" of the soldiers who have adopted her. Tonio's big Act I scene and aria, "Ah! mes amis," was a famous showpiece for Pavarotti and Flórez is in that league, nailing the aria's nine high Cs with an ease mere mortals reserve just for breathing. This is knock-'em-dead singing and the audience demands (and gets) an encore. Ciofi's Marie is well acted and sung with lyric beauty and coloratura fireworks. The chief supporting roles are done to a turn. Bass Nicola Ulivieri is a firm-voiced Sulpice, the sergeant who helps the lovers, while Francesca Franci is a wonderful Marquise, displaying subtle comic acting and a rich mezzo as Marie's "aunt" who has grand plans for her future. Conductor Riccardo Frizza leads the Genoa forces with stylish zest.
Stage director Emilio Sagi, has moved the action from Napoleonic times to a French village in the closing days of World War II, replacing the French regiment with victorious Yanks, which makes for some textual anomalies but none that impede enjoyment. This video version offers functional direction but it's often unflattering to the singers (especially Marie who's sometimes shot from above in lighting that shadows part of her face), and uses excessive close-ups and cuts to reaction shots that distract from the main events. Still, a don't-miss buffo opera brilliantly sung. --Dan Davis