Dawn French returns to Covent Garden in La fille du regiment

British comedienne once more takes up non-speaking role in Donizetti comedy

8 September 2009

Dawn French in La Fille du regiment The Royal Opera has just announced updates to the casts of various productions for the coming season – and amongst them is the return of British comedienne Dawn French.

She'll appear in the revival of Donizetti's La fille du regiment, in which she appeared when the production was first unveiled in January 2007. French, who is better known as one half of the successful double act she formed with Jennifer Saunders and for appearances on UK television as The Vicar of Dibley, made a surprise ROH debut as La Duchesse de Crakentorp in the Laurent Pelly production, and now it seems she's back for a repeat turn.

The cast announcement was only one of several made today. It was also announced that Matti Salminen – who is to make a long-awaited return to the house – has withdrawn from the role of King Marke for the first three performances of Tristan und Isolde (29 Sep, 2, 5 Oct) as he requires more time than anticipated to recover from recent knee surgery.  

The role of King Marke will now be sung by John Tomlinson for the first three performances, marking his debut in the role at Covent Garden.  He has previously sung the role at Bayreuth.  His recent roles for The Royal Opera include the title role in The Minotaur, Gurnemanz (Parsifal) and Wotan/Wanderer/Hagen (The Ring).  His roles for The Royal Opera during the 2009/10 Season include Grand Inquisitor (Don Carlo) and General (The Gambler).

The next replacement is for happier reasons. Due to pregnancy, Christine Rice has withdrawn from the role of Concepcion in The Royal Opera's production of L'Heure espagnole.  The role will now be sung by Romanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose.

The previously incomplete casting for the double revival of La boheme over Christmas has been firmed up. The role of Rodolfo will now be shared between three tenors: Polish tenor
Piotr Beczala, Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai and Jette Parker Principal Korean tenor Ji- Min Park.

Piotr Beczala will sing the role on 19, 21, 23 December, 2, 4, and 11 January, Teodor Ilincai will sing the role on 26 and 28 December and Ji-Min Park will sing the role on 5 and 7 January.

Having recently sung the role of Rodolfo in San Francisco and Munich, Piotr Beczala sings the role for the first time at Covent Garden.  He made his debut with The Royal Opera as the Italian Tenor (Der Rosenkavalier) in 2004 and returned to sing the title role in Faust, the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) and Lensky (Eugene Onegin)
Teodor Ilincai makes his Royal Opera debut as Rodolfo.  He has previously sung the role in Hamburg and his recent roles include Macduff (Macbeth) in Bucharest and Hamburg and Ismaele (Nabucco) in Vienna. 

Ji-Min Park sings the role of Rodolfo for the first time.  He made his debut with The Royal Opera as Third Esquire (Parsifal) in 2007 and his roles for the Company have included Gastone de Letorières (La traviata), Fourth Jew (Salome), Scaramuccio (Ariadne auf Naxos), Pang (Turandot), Second Noble (Lohengrin), Graf Albert (Die tote Stadt), Sailor (Dido and Aeneas) and Coridon (Acis and Galatea).  Ji-Min Park represented the Republic of Korea in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in June 2009.

The rest of the cast remains the same with Hibla Gerzmava and Rebecca Evans (5, 7, 11 Jan) sharing the role of Mimì, Gabriele Viviani and Christopher Maltman (5, 7, 11 Jan) as Marcello, Inna Dukach and Eri Nakumura (5, 7, 11 Jan) as Musetta, Jacques Imbrailo and Simone Del Savio (5, 7, 11 Jan) as Schaunard and Kostas Smoriginas and Vuyani Mlinde (5, 7, 11 Jan) as Colline.  Conducting honours are shared by Andris Nelsons for the December performances, Maurizio Benini (5, 7, 11 Jan) and Paul Wynne Griffiths (2, 4 Jan).

For the new production of The Gambler in February 2010, the role of Fat Englishman will be sung by Australian bass David Woloszko who makes his debut with The Royal Opera.  He has previously sung the role for Grange Park Opera.  Recent roles include Don Bartolo (Le nozze di Figaro) for Opera East and Leporello (Don Giovanni) for English Pocket Opera.

In March 2010's revival of The Cunning Little Vixen, the roles of the Forester's Wife and Screech Owl will be sung by British mezzo-soprano Madeleine Shaw marking her debut with The Royal Opera.  She has previously sung the roles for Opera East Produtions.  Recent roles include Kate Pinkerton (Madam Butterfly) and Annina (Der Rosenkavalier) for English National Opera.

Finally, it has been announced that for the revival of La fille du regiment, Juan Diego Flórez will now sing the role of Tonio only on 17, 20, 22, 25 and 29 May. Colin Lee will now sing the role on 27 May, 1 and 4 June in his place. This follows on from Florez's recent departure from one performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia in July, when the close scheduling of three performances (one of which was to be broadcast) led him to withdraw from one.

by Dominic McHugh

lineDaniel BarenboimRelated articles:

News: The Royal Opera, Coven Garden announces 2009-10 season
News: Southbank Centre announces 2009-10 season
News: 2009 BBC Proms are announced
News: SCO and RSNO announce 2009-10 seasons


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