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Published on May 25, 2010
La fille du régiment was first performed on February 11, 1840, at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, then at La Scala, Milan, October 30, 1840. It was presented in English at the Surrey Theatre in London on December 21, 1847, and was repeated in the same season in Italian with Jenny Lind. New Orleans saw the first American performance on March 7, 1843. It was frequently performed in New York, the role of Marie being a favorite with Jenny Lind, Henriette Sontag, Pauline Lucca, and Adelina Patti. It was presented at the Metropolitan Opera with Marcella Sembrich, and Charles Gilibert (Sulpice) in 1902-3. It was then at the Manhattan Opera House in 1909 with Luisa Tetrazzini, John McCormack, and Charles Gilibert, and again with Frieda Hempel and Antonio Scotti in the same roles at the Met on December 17, 1917.
This opera is famous for the aria "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" (sometimes referred to as "Pour mon âme"), which has been called the "Mount Everest" for tenors. It features nine high Cs and comes comparatively early in the opera, giving the singer less time to warm up his voice. Many lesser tenors do not quite hit the notes (hitting B natural instead), especially as they come in rapid-fire succession and require considerable vocal dexterity. Luciano Pavarotti's stardom is reckoned from a performance alongside Joan Sutherland at the Met, when he "leapt over the 'Becher's Brook' of the string of high Cs with an aplomb that left everyone gasping." 
More recently, Juan Diego Florez performed "Ah! mes amis" at La Scala, and then, on popular demand, repeated it, "breaking a 74-year embargo on encores at the legendary Milanese opera house." He repeated this feat at the Met on April 21, 2008, the opening night of a new production with Natalie Dessay as Marie. This Met production was broadcast in high definition video to movie theaters worldwide on April 26, 2008. The recent production was updated in time to World War I with a tankette appearing in the finale.