I really hoped that Ann Widdecombe's cameo in La Fille du régiment on Wednesday wouldn't dominate my consequent review, but I'm afraid that is going to be totally unavoidable. The reviews of Ann's performance as La Duchess de Crackentorp in Donizetti's comic opera where pretty dire. I'm not one to take too much notice of the critics though, they have been in an exceptionally cranky mood all season when it comes to the Royal Opera. This time though they had a point. This was real 'head in hands' terrible, which is where my head was for much of her time on stage. It was SO far off the cringeometer that it sent you into a totally different universe. At one point i think I wanted to die. Why? Well where to begin?! Ann's French and French accent where appauling in a way that was so devastating that it MUST have been intentional, otherwise surely they wouldn't have let her go on stage. The added sprinkling of English thrown into the mix made it even worse. Like adding salt to a gaping wound. Then there were the constant references to Ann's other forays into 'show biz' such as Strictly Come Dancing and also her time as an MP, which was referenced through her randomly shouting 'order! order!' as she left the stage. Even more bizarre than this were constant references to the 'engagements olympiques 2012' or Olympic commitments....I've no idea why this was put into the script. I mean I know it's the Olympics this year, but what does that have to do with this opera or Ann Widdecombe?! The whole thing just highlighted how awful live theater can be and how desperately important casting really is. Poor Ann, I'm not a fan at the best of times (she is a Tory after all), and this didn't improve her standing with me at all. At curtain call she was met with a few boos, whether that was for her performance or because the character she was playing was a bit of an old bat, i'm not sure....Bad times.
Anyway...Ann aside. How was the opera overall? Very enjoyable indeed is the answer! It's a shame that such a small talking part such as La Duchess de Crackentrop can dominate in the way that it clearly can. I found the rest of the production and cast to be excellent. The staging was really engaging, made up of large maps of the Tyrolean Alps, which was the setting for this charming tale. The story is about a young girl who was adopted by an entire French army regiment as a baby and was then raised by them. She falls in love with a Tyrolean local boy whilst the troops are based in Austria, but as you can imagine their love is complicated and they can't marry and so on and so forth. It all ends well though and there are many genuine laughs along the way! It's an interesting opera too in the sense that it has some quite extensive talking scenes which sometimes makes it feel like a play. The singing was excellent, even exemplary in the case of Colin Lee. All in all it was a delightful evening at the opera and it cheered me up immensely after a dreary day at the office! So a pretty contrasting review for La Fille du régiment . Overall though it was a lovely evening and although Ann was shocking, i'd still recommend giving it a shot.
Seat: G71, Amphitheater, £32: *** (typical Amphitheater seat really!)
Synopsis (courtesy of the ROH's brand new website!): La Fille du regiment
Reviews: See post of 22nd April 2012
NEXT OPERA: La boheme, 5th May