The opera was written by Donizetti while he was living in Paris between 1838 and 1840 preparing a revised version of his then-unperformed Italian opera, Poliuto as Les martyrs for the Paris Opéra. As La fille, it quickly became a popular success, partly because of the famous aria « La femme du boulanger PDF! Mécène Marié de l’Isle sang Tonio. Marie-Julie Halligner sang The Marquise of Berkenfield.
The opening night was « a barely averted disaster. Apparently the lead tenor was frequently off pitch. The critic and poet Théophile Gautier, who was not a rival composer, had a somewhat different point of view: « M Donizetti is capable of paying with music that is beautiful and worthy for the cordial hospitality which France offers him in all her theatres, subsidized or not. Despite its bumpy start, the opera soon became hugely popular at the Opéra-Comique. During its first 80 years, it reached its 500th performance at the theatre in 1871 and its 1,000th in 1908. The opera was first performed in Italy at La Scala, Milan, on 3 October 1840, in Italian with recitatives by Donizetti replacing the spoken dialogue. It was thought « worthless » and received only six performances.
It was not until 1928 when Toti Dal Monte sang Marie that the opera began to be appreciated in Italy. La fille received its first performance in America on 7 March 1843 at the Théâtre d’Orléans in New Orleans. Later—on 21 December 1847 in English—it was presented at the Surrey Theatre in London. Gilbert wrote a burlesque adaptation of the opera, La Vivandière, in 1867. It was revived at the Royal Opera, London, in 1966 for Joan Sutherland. This opera is famous for the aria « Ah!
It features nine high Cs and comes comparatively early in the opera, giving the singer less time to warm up his voice. More recently, Juan Diego Flórez performed « Ah! La Scala, and then, on popular demand, repeated it, « breaking a 74-year embargo on encores at the legendary Milanese opera house. Today, the opera is frequently performed to the point that it has become part of the standard repertoire. Fighting is raging in the Tyrols and the Marquise of Berkenfield, who is traveling in the area, is alarmed to the point of needing smelling salts to be administered by her faithful steward, Hortensius. Duet: Sulpice and Marie: Mais, qui vient?
Well, well, if it isn’t our daughter Marie ». Then, as he questions her about a young man she has been seen with, she identifies him as Tonio, a Tyrolean . At that point, Sulpice returns, surprising the young couple who leave. The Marquise arrives with Hortensius, initially afraid of the soldier, but is calmed by him. The Marquise explains that they are trying to return to her castle and asks for an escort. When hearing the name Berkenfield, Sulpice immediately recognizes it from a letter found with Marie as an infant. Marie has been living in the Marquise’s castle for several months.
In a conversation with Sulpice, the Marquise describes how she has sought to modify most of her military manners and make her into a lady of fashion, suitable for her to be married to her nephew, the Duke of Crakentorp. Although reluctant, Marie has agreed and Sulpice is asked to encourage her. With it is Tonio, now an officer. The Duchess and her nephew arrive and Marie enters with Sulpice, who has given her the news that the Marquise is her mother.
Marie embraces her and decides she must obey. See the « Notice bibliographique » at the BnF. Gilbert Duprez, Souvenirs d’un chanteur, 1880, p. Quoted and translated by Ashbrook 1982, p. Loewenberg 1978, column 804, has 30 October 1840 for Milan. Biography, Discography, Annals, Pictures, Articles, News ».