On today’s date in 1840, a new opera by Gaetano Donizetti debuted at the Opéra Comique in Paris. This was “La fille du régiment,” or “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Other operas by the popular Italian composer were already playing in Paris, and others scheduled. Despite being tailor-made to Parisian tastes, “The Daughter of the Regiment” was not well received.
Apparently French composers, Berlioz among them, felt threatened by the Donizetti blitz. “Monsieur Donizetti seems to treat us like a conquered country,” wrote Berlioz.” It is a veritable invasion. One can no longer speak of the opera houses of Paris, but only of the opera houses of Donizetti!”
Well, eventually Donizetti did win over French hearts and minds, and, it’s ironic to note that one hundred years after its 1840 premiere, Paris WAS indeed an occupied country. In 1940, German tanks rolled into Paris, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the patriotic French soprano Lily Pons used her starring role in a revival of Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” to express her solidarity with the French Resistance. She added a rousing version of the “Marseilles” to the finale of Donizetti’s score, which brought sympathetic American audiences to their feet.
Music Played in Today's Program
Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848)La Fille deRegiment excerptJoan Sutherland, soprano; Covent Garden Orchestra; Richard Bonynge, cond.London 414 520
Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760 - 1836)/arr. BerliozLa MarseillaiseJessye Norman, soprano; Paris Orchestra; Semyon Bychkov, cond.Philips 422 922
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