Javier Camarena breaks the record for encores at the Met in “La Fille du Regiment”

Nélida Nassar 03.01.2019

Curtain Call for “La Fille du Regiment”

Tenor Javier Camarena is accustomed to triumphing in operatic roles. His latest success is in Gaetano Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” at the Metropolitan Opera, which was transmitted in HD yesterday evening, March 2, to cinemas worldwide.

An almost perfect Tonio, Camarena performed within a simple and attractive stage setting as his robust, chesty sound, clear intonation, brilliant timbre, morbidezza and above all his radiant and sonorous treble resonated throughout the hall. Inevitably, the public asked for more, and the acclaimed Mexican singer gracefully complied, breaking all records with nine consecutive high Cs in the aria “Pour mon âme” — multiplied by two for the encore. The tenor, as humorous as he is generous, amused himself by stressing the syllables “et mari” (“and husband”) after the last high C of the word “militaire”  (“military”),  thus technically adding 3 new notes. 18 + 3 = Javier Camarena making history and bringing the house to its feet. However, we must not reduce the evening to this climax; for the second act aria “Pour me rapprocher de Marie” (“ to get close to Marie”) shows many qualities of phrasing and colors fully in tune with the character’s supplication.

Pretty Yende as Marie seduces in the slow arias, such as “Il faut partir” and “Quand le destin,” which give her the opportunity to deploy with great sensitivity a beautiful palette of sounds, at times giving the listener goose bumps. Her vocal variations and gleaming middle voice are inventive and generous, though she tends to be more cautious in the faster parts. The volume and the projection of the South African soprano are as powerful as those of her main partners. Incidentally, she adopts Laurent Pelly’s proposal to add a monologue in Zulu when peeling the potatoes in act one. 

Despite being slightly indisposed for this last performance, Maurizio Muraro slipped into the role of Sulpice as if into a second skin. The outlandish mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, a veteran of the Metropolitan stage, likes nothing more than these comic roles in which her charisma, acting, body language and vocal power all excel. Finally, the Metropolitan Opera, faithful to its tradition, offered an exciting piece of casting, as stage and screen icon Kathleen Turner made her Met debut in the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp. The audience, clearly excited by her presence, warmly saluted the screen icon. The supertitles helped us to understand some of the French text with which she peppered with English words. 

In the pit, maestro Enrique Mazzola gave an energetic reading of the colorful score. The overture was perhaps a bit too slow, but Mazzola was right to emphasize the march-like rhythms that propel the opera. His precise control of the tempi achieved a notable sense of cohesion and balance between the orchestra and the singers. What can one add about Laurent Pelly’s production, watched all over the world, and which over this past decade has been heard with different arrays of singers measuring themselves against his take on the opera? Perhaps Pelly’s genius is most clearly manifest in his inventiveness and comic flair. He leaves space for the singers’ individualities, such as the use of Zulu for Pretty Yende, and for such changes as the play on words in “metropolitan obligations” replacing the “Olympic obligations” of the year 2000. This final performance of the Met’s 2019 production of “La Fille du Regiment” treated the audience to a memorable, even historic evening of opera.

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Production: Laurent Pelly
Conductor: Enrique Mazzola
Tenor: Javier Camarena as Tonio
Soprano: Pretty Yende as Marie
Bass: Maurizio Muraro as Sulpice
Mezzo Soprano: Stéphanie Blythe as the Marquise of Berkenfield
Actress: Kathleen Turner as the Duchess of Krakenthorp
Set Designer: Chantal Thomas
Costume Designer: Laurent Pelly
Lighting Designer: Joël Adam
Choreographer: Laura Scozzi
Associate Director / Dialogue: Agathe Mélinand
Revival Stage Director: Christian Räth