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It helps that Palmer is an accomplished comedienne and in this production she needed to be, as the non-singing role of the Duchess was played by Dawn French, who spoke the role in French but threw in the odd English catch phrase. French's over the top acting would normally have looked just that, over the top, but in opera it seemed less so, and especially in a production as over the top as this. Her first entrance was after Pelly had started Act 2 with a sort of ballet for the maids, cleaning the Marquise's house. That the maids might have been men in drag is just one of Pelly's directorial tics (he did something similar in his production of La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein at the Chatelet). Dawn French's second entry in this act was preceded by the chorus, grotesquely got up as extremely old, doddery people. Against this backdrop, French seemed almost normal.
Dawn French as La Duchesse de Crackentorp (left) and Felicity Palmer as La Marquise de Berkenfeld in the Royal Opera House production of Donizetti's 'La Fille du Regiment'. Photo © 2007 Bill Cooper
The Marquise's Major-Domo was played by Donald Maxwell, an accomplished hogger of the stage, if given half a chance. Here he fitted into the ensemble very well and formed an accomplished double act with Felicity Palmer.
Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice Pingo in the Royal Opera House production of Donizetti's 'La Fille du Regiment'. Photo © 2007 Bill Cooper
Alessandro Corbelli sang Sulpice, Marie's strongest friend in the regiment. This is an important but not particularly showy role. Corbelli responded with a fine display of character acting/singing and a nice line in movement.
Copyright © 22 January 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK