DatesApr 27 thru May 10
Fort Worth Opera’s current production of Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment opened Saturday night at Bass Performance Hall. In rising order of importance, Fort Worth’s version provides a sparkling satire of nineteenth century social order; a celebratory collection of comical moments; an appealing series of hummable romantic melodies; and, most important, a showcase for a bel canto soprano of the first order, specifically, Ava Pine.
While continuing to ascend on the national and international scene, TCU-trained Pine has accumulated a string of triumphant starring roles with the Dallas Opera, the Fort Worth Opera, and with area instrumental ensembles, of which the current production is the latest. Under General Manager Darren K. Woods’ regime, Fort Worth Opera has built beautifully productive relationships with an admirable group of fresh and exciting voices who keep coming back. Pine is a prime example of Woods’ star system at work for the benefit of all involved—especially the audience.
The sheer beauty and flexibility of Pine’s voice has been evident from her first professional appearances in the area, and it only takes a few measures to recognize her remarkable and insightful musicianship as well. Her range as an actress becomes more evident in each role we see her take on, as exemplified in Saturday’s performance, in which she played Marie as boundlessly energetic and tomboyish, leaping about the stage and tugging at the restraints of civilization.
Tenor David Portillo provided a musically handsome counterpart to Pine with an equally impressive vocal command as Tonio, the second-most vocally substantial role in the piece. Mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle brought her well-known and well-honed star quality to the role of the Marquise, delighting, along with bass-baritone Rod Nelman, in light slapstick and visual high jinks. Opera General Manager Woods took a break from administrative duties for a speaking role as the bumbling but essential steward Hortensius, with delightful results.
Based primarily on Donizetti’s original French opéra comique version (which, unlike the later Italian version, featured spoken dialogue rather than sung recitative), this production is sung and spoken in English, with the spoken dialogue revised and updated by stage director Dorothy Danner. The operetta-like result is both faithful to the authentic spirit of nineteenth-century French light opera and wonderfully accessible to a twenty-first-century audience. Danner’s high-spirited staging worked beautifully within the story-book scenery originally created for the Opera Company of Philadelphia by Boyd Ostroff; conductor Christopher Larkin, best known for his interpretation of contemporary opera, demonstrated an equally able command of romantic idioms with the accompanying Fort Worth Symphony.