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Wineke review: Cisler sizzles in 'Daughter of the Reigment'

By William R. Wineke, Special to Channel 3000
Published On: Feb 09 2014 09:15:13 AM CST

The Madison Opera’s production of Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment” is cheerful fare for a bleak midwinter, but let’s leave that aside for a moment.

What’s really important is that Caitlin Cisler, who plays the opera’s title character, Marie, should be invited back to star in every future Madison Opera production.

Of course, I felt the same way about soprano Melody Moore, who starred in the fall production of “Tosca.”

Somehow, the folks who run the opera – you have to give credit to general director Kathryn Smith – are able to attract extraordinary talent to this Midwestern city on a regular basis.

Cisler combines the cute-as-bug personality necessary to the role of Marie with a breathtaking range of voice. The result is that in some hypothetical world one could watch the opera without hearing a note and still enjoy the performance or, conversely, could shut his eyes and still thrill to the music and singing.

That’s all due to Cisler, who seems to be able to make a wonderful performance seem effortless.

“The Daughter of the Regiment” is a frothy comic opera. Marie is a seeming orphan who has been adopted by the soldiers of the 21st Regiment of France.

When the regiment invades Austria, it encounters the Marquis of Berkenfeld, sung by Allisanne Apple, who determines that Marie is actually her niece and insists the young woman accompany her to her estate where she can be married off to an aristocrat.

This doesn’t sit well with Tonio, sung by Javier Abreu, a local peasant who enlists in the regiment in order to be closer to Marie.

You can pretty much guess that, by opera’s end, Marie turns out to be the actual daughter of the Marquis and that she and Tonio end up together.

The opera is performed in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, a theater less than half the size of Overture Hall. What that means is that everyone sits close enough to the stage to make opera glasses irrelevant.

That’s good and bad. It’s good because, well, it’s good to be close. But, if the audience is close to the stage, the acting requires greater subtlety than if half the audience is peering down from great height.

Again, Cisler nailed it. Some of her colleagues on stage were given to broad, sweeping gestures which, on the one hand, added to the comic effect but, on the other, seemed – to me at least – to be somewhat disconcerting.

There were a number of good performances in this opera, not the least of which was the quality of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which seems able to adapt to any venue.

Abreu is a gifted tenor and Nathan Stark, who sings the role of Sulpice, the sergeant of the regiment and effective foster father of Marie, had a pleasant combination of pomposity and charm.

But, honestly, every time someone else was singing, I was waiting for Cisler to reopen her mouth.

On April 25 and 27, the opera presents Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking,” which promises to be a masterpiece of art, but probably more of a downer emotionally.

Here’s hoping the weather improves by then. For this weekend, “The Daughter of the Regiment” is what we needed for a little musical warmth.

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