Meet the Artists
The Daughter of the Regiment has some of the most challenging music in the operatic repertoire. It takes especially skilled singers to bring the beloved characters of Marie and Tonio to life, and we’re extremely lucky to have Vanessa Becerra and David Portillo joining us for this production. Recently, they were kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about themselves and share what it’s like to prepare for the vocal pyrotechnics on full display in Donizetti’s laugh-out-loud comedy.
Describe your character in three words:
Vanessa: Marie is loyal, curious, and rambunctious
David: Tonio is smitten, compassionate, and persistent
What are some of the joys and challenges of performing this role?
Vanessa: The playful dynamic between Marie and her “adoptive fathers” is so fun and energetic, I love how genuine it is! The challenge lies in singing this virtuosic style of bel canto, maintaining ease and steadiness when I am sure I will want to run and jump and play like the carefree person Marie is! It will be a balancing act for sure.
David: Tonio has an array of emotions, musicality, and vocalism through Daughter, and this dynamic opera makes the show a very fulfilling evening for me and the audience. I love to sing the luscious bel canto lines of the duet “Cavatina” in the first act then immediately switch to the bouncy polka with Marie —it’s all so fun. I’m looking forward to singing under the baton of Maestro Kelly Kuo for this gorgeous music. Soon after the duet, Tonio has his biggest hill to climb—the 9 high C’s of “Ah, mes amis”—where he has to convince the regiment to allow him to marry Marie. With the scene set and active staging by director John de los Santos, surrounded by the amazing regiment singers, and the orchestra playing raucously in the pit, this daunting aria really becomes a very joyful event for me.
What are the themes or messages of this piece that you think will resonate with our audiences?
Vanessa: I think a major theme in this story is identity. We all have such unique stories and life experiences that inform who we are, who we become, how we grow, and family takes plenty of different forms. I think Marie’s journey is hugely relatable for a lot of people!
David: This comedic favorite can teach about loyalty, family, social expectations, and especially gender norms. In the story, Marie is forced to move from her rough, boyish life in the regiment to a frilly, feminine aristocratic lifestyle, and she is not happy about it at all. In the first act, audiences are able to see this tomboy be loved by her adopted family, see that Tonio is completely in love with her, and understand that she loves him back. The second act of Daughter highlights her longing to be back with her chosen family, and her need to ‘be her true self.’ This will only be highlighted with the special guest starring of drag superstar Monét X Change as The Duchess of Krackenthorp to show the audiences that love, chosen family, and compassion always conquer social and gender expectations.
What makes The Daughter of the Regiment such a funny, exciting, and heartwarming piece?
Vanessa: Honestly the recipe is perfect – an abandoned baby girl, a group of clunky men figuring out how to nurture her as best as they can, inevitably raising a boisterous, hoydenish woman. At the end of the day, they loved her as sincerely as if they were blood related, and she loved them just as well.
David: The music and singing in The Daughter of the Regiment clearly show each emotion in the story—love, conflict, loneliness, and overwhelming joy. This exciting cast, with Vanessa Becerra leading as Marie, gets to sing some heartbreaking melodies. The beautiful first-act finale shows how hard it is to leave her life as a “vivandiere” in the regiment. The most recognizable tunes are the military and march songs that this amazing chorus of regiment singers, led by Chorus Director Celeste Marie Johnson, perform—these are ALL FUN. “Salut à la France,” “Chant du Regiment,” and the catchy fun “Rataplan” are my favorite of the whole opera—the audience will have plenty to hum as they leave the theater.
Do you have plans for your time in Minnesota? Anything you’re dying to do or see while you’re back in town?
Vanessa: I have been here for three days and have already eaten at two of my favorite restaurants in town! (Spoon and Stable and Young Joni). Tonight is a new restaurant for me (Petite Leon), so, essentially, I plan to eat my way through this whole town.
David: After having just moved away from Minnesota (St. Louis Park) a few months ago, we have lots of friends and familiar faces to see! In winter, we love the theater and music scenes with few choice outdoor spots. I can’t wait to visit the Bde Unma (Lake Harriet) Art Shanty Festival again this winter, and the winter kite festival there is great too! The Guthrie and MN Orchestra are both on the list, as well as trying to see the Boticelli at the MIA before it’s gone. I also have several pizza places I’m missing a lot like Rosalia, Boludo, and Pizzaria Lola.