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Donizetti's 'The Daughter of the Regiment'

Creative storytellers often get crammed into cubbyholes. Certain movie directors, no matter how versatile, are automatically associated with gangster films, period dramas or high-tech thrillers. Authors with vastly different styles are lumped together as specialists in crime novels, suspense, romance or science fiction. Rightly or wrongly, it seems far easier to rattle off lists of specialists than to cite artists who are best known for creative variety.

Opera composers get the same treatment. Giacomo Puccini is famous for violent, verismo potboilers, despite his talent for touching romance (La Boheme) and biting satire (Gianni Schicchi). Richard Wagner is known for complex, symbolic dramas based on ancient myths and legends — the massive Ring cycle comes immediately to mind — though he also wrote more lighthearted fare. Even the great Giuseppe Verdi is most often associated with high drama and deadly intrigue, even though his works range from historical epics to family dramas, and even include a comedy or two.

In contrast, Gaetano Donizetti is a composer who seems to defy categorization. He wrote more than five dozen operas, and his works are nearly impossible to cubbyhole. He became a master of dark, historical dramas, with works like Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda, and his Lucia di Lammermoor is among the finest examples of romantic tragedy.

Yet Donizetti also had a true genius for comedy, displayed in the brilliant farce Don Pasquale and the good-natured charmer The Elixir of Love. And then there's the opera featured here, La fille du regiment — The Daughter of the Regiment. It's a rollicking combination of esprit de corps, slapstick antics and innocent romance — not to mention intoxicating music highlighted by spectacular vocal writing.

World of Opera host Lisa Simeone presents a production from the Washington National Opera, featuring soprano JiYoung Lee as Marie, a young woman who was adopted and raised by an entire army regiment, and José Bros as Tonio, a love-struck young man who joins the regiment just to be near Marie. The performance comes to us from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, on the banks of the Potomac in Washington.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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