Anticipating the safe arrival in Chicago on Saturday of the well-traveled Laurent Pelly production of La Fille du Règiment starring Lisette Oropesa and Lawrence Brownlee, Chris’s Cache offers two problematic 1990s Donizetti daughters: a San Francisco preview of Kathleen Battle’s Met Fille that was not to be, well as a June Anderson/Luciano Pavarotti Met Fille in which the tenor disappears after an Act I meltdown.

The Met planned a revival in 1994 of its wildly successful La Fille du Règiment mounted in 1972 and revived thereafter for Joan Sutherland. Battle was to star, so she took on the role for the first time in fall 1993 at the San Francisco Opera. Listeners will decide how well that tryout went, but the gossip was that t-shirts popped up after the diva left town shouting “I Survived the Battle!” The subsequent Met performances featured Harolyn Blackwell who took over after Joseph Volpe dismissed Battle.

After that dustup, the Met made the unfortunate decision to trot out Fille once again as an opportunity for Pavarotti to revisit his breakout role of Tonio from twenty-three years earlier. Minus the Met archives, I don’t remember if the November 8th performance posted today documents his first and only demi-Tonio, but you can hear the “Ah! mes amis!” go terribly wrong which led to the tenor withdrawing from the opera’s second act. Anderson then bravely soldiered on with a new Tonio. The New York Times announced that Pavarotti intended to sing the remaining performances, but I don’t believe he did.

Donizetti: La Fille du Règiment

Marie: Kathleen Battle
Marquise of Berkenfield: Felicity Palmer
Duchesse of Krakentorp: Mollie Sugden
Tonio: Frank Lopardo
Sulpice: Michel Trempont
Hortensius: Michel Sénéchal

Conductor: Bruno Campanella
San Francisco Opera
21 September 1993
In-house recording

Donizetti: La Fille du Règiment

Marie: June Anderson
Marquise of Berkenfield: Sarah Walker
Duchesse of Krakentorp: Muriel Costa-Greenspon
Tonio: Luciano Pavarotti/Jean-Luc Viala
Sulpice: Michel Trempont
Hortentius: Bernard Fitch

Conductor: Edoardo Müller
Metropolitan Opera
8 November 1995
In-house recording

Each Fille can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a box with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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Photo: Scott Suchman