Gaetano Donizetti


contemporary opera 14 12. Róka István season ticket

22 May 2024, 7 p.m.

Hungarian State Opera

In Brief

Comic opera in two acts, in French, with spoken dialogues in Hungarian, with Hungarian, English, and French subtitles

Performance length: , with 1 intermission.

Since being orphaned as a small child, the young and plucky Marie has grown up in the French army. Unaware of her aristocratic origins, she falls in love with a handsome peasant lad. Will she really marry him out of love? Set during the Napoleonic Wars, La fille du régiment was one of Gaetano Donizetti’s most successful operas during its own era, and singing the title role was the dream of every coloratura soprano throughout the entire 19th century. In 1838, tired of his constant struggles with the Italian censors, Donizetti moved to Paris. There, the great Italian bel canto composer wrote his first French-language comic opera, modelling it much more on the unique features of the French opéra comique style and its composers. Donizetti’s opera is a candid love letter to France – and the country reciprocated his affection, staging it every 14 July, on Bastille Day.


Hungarian State Opera
May 22, 2024
Start time
7 p.m.
End time
10 p.m.


Act 1

The inhabitants of a village in the Tyrolean mountains are preparing to take arms against the invading French army. Accompanied by her butler Hortensius, Theresa, the Marquise of Berkenfield, is fleeing to her country estate to find safety. One of the villagers arrives with good news: there is no need to worry: after the victory, the 21st artillery regiment will break camp and leave the mountains behind. The regiment’s sergeant, Sulpice Pingot, is mustering the troops when he is joined by Marie, the regiment’s “daughter” whom they had found nearby after a battle some years ago. The regiment has taken care of her, raised her, and appointed her canteen girl. When questioned by Sulpice, Marie admits that she has met a Tyrolean boy who had saved her life. The sergeant bans her from meeting any civilians. The members of the regiment arrive with a captive: it is none other than Tonio, the Tyrolean peasant boy, who had been looking for Marie in the camp. Sulpice and the regiment start praising the French army, and they force Tonio to drink to France. Marie tries to help the boy escape the situation, but Sulpice commands the men to line up, and Tonio is driven off. Marie is left alone, but Tonio finds a way back to her, and they vow their eternal love to one another. They are surprised by Sulpice, and Marie is forced to admit to her love that she had once promised to marry only from the 21st regiment. Tonio is again driven off, and in her anger Marie threatens to desert the army.

The Marquise and Hortensius arrive and ask the sergeant to provide them with a military escort. From a slip of the tongue, Sulpice realises that the Marquise is the addressee of the letter that they had found so many years ago alongside the child Marie. The Marquise reveals that Marie must be her brother Robert’s daughter, who had disappeared long ago: she is the sole heir to the Berkenfield inheritance. Sulpice introduces Marie to her newly found aunt, who finds the young girl slightly uncouth but quickly announces that she will be taking Marie to the castle immediately. Though Marie would object, Sulpice supports the idea, as he realises that is the only way Marie will be able to free herself of the army. The regiment’s soldiers again appear, this time with Tonio, who proudly reports that he has joined the army so he can ask for the canteen girl’s hand in marriage. Marie bids a tearful farewell to her comrades and leaves with the Marquise and Hortensius.

Act 2

In Berkenfield Castle, the Marquise and the Duchess of Crackentorp plan a marriage between Marie and the Marquise’s nephew, the Duke of Crackentorp. Although the future couple have never met, this does not bother the plans being made by the Marquise and the Duchess for unifying their properties and assets. Sulpice is also staying at the Berkenfield Castle, recuperating from an injury, and the Marquise asks his help in executing the plan. The Marquise is attempting to keep Marie’s rearing a secret and make her into a perfect lady – with varying success. Marie is even given singing lessons, but at Sulpice’s instigation her romantic songs are replaced by the refrain to the regimental song. The Marquise storms off: she has to smooth the way for impending signing of the marriage contract. Sulpice tries to convince the girl that she will be happy in the marriage, and Marie caves in, agreeing to sign the contract if she cannot be Tonio’s anyway. But she suddenly hears the regimental song: the 21st artillery regiment has arrived at the castle to carry her off. Marie enquires about Tonio at a newly appointed sergeant. She can barely believe her eyes: the new sergeant is none other than Tonio. Together with Sulpice, they gladly reminisce about the war, and Marie and Tonio then ask Sulpice to talk to the Marquise on their behalf. But the Marquise is adamant and takes no notice of Tonio’s romantic proposal. Tonio then reveals that he had recently convalesced together with a soldier who turned out to be the aide-de-camp to Marie’s father Robert, who told him that the former general was not the Marquise’s brother but her lover: Marie is thus not the Marquise’s niece but her illegitimate daughter! Hortensius announced the arrival of guests: the attorney has prepared the marriage contract and it is ready to be signed. The confused Marie finally gives in to the Marquise’s “maternal” pressure, but the soldiers of the 21st regiment, led by Tonio, rush the room to save their “daughter”. The noble guests are taken aback when they learn that Marie had been a canteen girl in the army: she proudly stands by her “fathers” and recounts the story of her upbringing, adding that she will always be thankful to the soldiers. The Marquise is finally moved and realises that she is unable to sacrifice her daughter’s happiness: she grants her permission for Marie to marry Tonio. The soldiers and the guests cheer their love and France.


"Much of the credit for the fun factor, however, goes to András Péter Kovács, the humorist who revised La Fille’s spoken text and rendered them into Hungarian. His prose is witty if occasionally borderline scatological, giving (...) some of the other principals wonderful bon mots that made for some of this production’s best moments."

George Jahn, Bachtrack