Metropolitan Opera 2018-19 Preview: Javier Camarena & The Tenors To Hit 9 High C’s

By David Salazar

On Feb. 7, 2019, the Metropolitan Opera will revive Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” for the 110th time in its history. 

The title heroine is undeniably one of the biggest stories every time that the opera is revived. In this production’s case, the leading lady will be Pretty Yende in what will be her 50th Met performance on opening night. 

On stage with her will be Javier Camarena, who will be taking on the treacherous “A mes amis” and its nine high C’s. He will be the eighth interpreter of the role of Tonio. Here is a look at the other seven tenors who have achieved success with the role at the Met. 

The first man to hit the nine high C’s was Thomas Salignac. He took on the role of Tonio 15 times in 1902 and 1903. 

The opera would disappear for another 14 years before returning in 1917. On that occassion, Fernando Carpi would perform on eight occasions at the Met.

The opera would disappear for nearly 20 years and when it returned with Lily Pons in the title role, tenor Raoul Jobin would be her partner for 15 performances.  

And the opera would disappear anew only to return 30 years later with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti, in one of his most renowned roles. He sang the opera 26 times at the Met, with five performances coming in 1995. 

Of his first Met Tonio, Harold C. Schonberg of the New York Times noted, “God has kissed his vocal cords, as he has said. This is a voice on the Gigli order, though used with more taste and musicianship. He sings the B’s and C’s as though he is not afraid of them, and the voice has an absolutely unbroken scale.”

After the initial run in the early 1970s, the opera would disappear again and return in the mid 1990s. Frank Lopardo was the first to start the run in 1994-95 before Pavarotti took over. Lopardo got four performances in the opera. 

As you may guess, the opera disappeared yet again after Pavarotti’s 1995 performances. It returned in 2008 with a cast headlined by Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez, who owned the role for a time. He appeared in 12 performances of the opera in 2008 and 2010, garnering strong reviews. 

When the opera returned one last time in 2011, Lawrence Brownlee would get his nine high C’s on seven different occasions; he also sang one performance in 2010, replacing an ailing Flórez.