We generally go to 3 of the 5 operas in Santa Fe each summer. After two heavy tragedies, last night’s Daughter of the Regiment, a comic opera in the French style, was a welcome change. The plot is inconsequential except for the excuses to sing in a variety of formats. The tenor, Tonio, has a lot of good parts, but this opera in known for the famous tenor aria often called the Nine High Cs aria for a reason you can probably guess. Most of the aria is pitched about a fifth below the C and the tenor teases you by popping up to the C for one note and then quickly dropping back (which, in my view as a tenor, is not all that hard). The last C, however, is a long held note, and the tenor last night, Alek Schrader, did a beautiful job.
For you non-tenors, the C in question is the one above middle C in the piano. This is generally right at the top of the range for real tenors. For those people singing tenor who were drafted from the Baritone section, it is generally well above the top of the range.
Tonio is paired with Marie, the daughter of the regiment (she was found as a baby on the battlefield and was raised by the regiment). Last night’s Marie was Anna Christy who played the part beautifully. This part has been sung by many distinguished singers including Lily Pons in the 40s, Joan Sutherland (against Luciano Pavarotti) in the 60s, and more recently Natalie Dessay.
This was Donizetti’s first opera after he arrived in Parisin 1840. It didn’t do well when it opened but eventually it became popular. The regiment in question is french and there is lots of martial music (the regiment boasted of itself that it was the best regiment in the French Army because it had an open line of credit at every bar in France). The opera eventually became so popular it was performed every Bastille Day for many years.
Once again the evening was beautiful. All the rain was earlier in the day, so we enjoyed our tailgate picnic before the performance. We drifted into the theater just before the opera started, and were treated to a beautiful production. It was everything a Santa Fe Opera evening can be.