Political Songs in Donizetti’s French Opera
La Fille du Régiment is unabashedly patriotic, and since its premiere, it has often been used for political ends. During the 19th century, the opera was regularly performed on France’s national holiday, July 14. During France’s “Second Empire,” the opera’s final chorus was sung as an unofficial national anthem. At a performance at the Metropolitan Opera following Armistice Day at the end of World War I, the soprano Frieda Hempel wove the patriotic song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” into Marie’s singing lesson. And during World War II, the soprano Lily Pons proudly sang the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” during the opera’s finale, also at the Met.
Why might La Fille du Régiment have been an exceptionally good opera for expressing French patriotism? How do you think Austrian audiences would feel about including the songs mentioned above in a performance of this work?