The Merry Widow

Wed 13th – Sun 17th February 2013

reviews

Nathaniel Zacharias

at 00:24 on 14th Feb 2013

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Franz Lehar’s comic operetta The Merry Widow was pulled off well by our Durham Opera Ensemble. Being set against the looming windows, high-hanging chandeliers and silent portraits of our castle’s Great Hall lends to the effect of being in the black-tie, dinner jacket world of the Pontevedro Embassy and its general air. The accompanying music played by the live band served its purpose marvelously in setting the mood for the different scenes although some of the emotive acting could have done the music much more justice.

The production articulates the tale of a widow whose late husband’s wealth is of want by Pontevedro’s ambassador to remain within their fatherland for the good of its bank. As such, many are the comedic ploys of the ambassador to ensure the widow weds a native man after fears spread that she is to marry a Parisian.

The production, overall, was enjoyable largely due to the lyrical wit of its musical numbers. One song that will surely be stuck on infinite replay in your head will be “Who can tell what the hell women are?” The more serious scenes where the various diplomats, consuls and advisors plot, reason and debate was mediocre in that their lines were rushed given the gravity of what they were saying. Also, the scenes alluding to unfaithfulness were acted out with static expressions not knowing fully how it feels to be torn in a dilemma of the heart. The production opened with weak acting but gradually became more characterized and distinct in the second half of the show.

Of special note were Count Danilo (Jordan Carlton) and Valencienne (Elen Roberts) whose performances were consistent from the beginning till the end. Both were powerful and clear, even in singing. As is the case with most operas, half of what is sung cannot be understood but that did not apply to the two names mentioned previously. The widow herself, Hanna Glawari (Charlotte La Thorpe), was a brilliant soprano but whose voice in regular speech failed to fill the small immensity of the Great Hall. Count Camille (Alex Banfield) looked the part for the role of the Ambassador’s wife’s love interest but could have felt the part better although his character also entailed some deadpan humour which made it difficult to balance. The Ambassador (Lewis Whyte) and the other diplomats could have balanced these comical and serious expressions in better ways too. And, “with respect”, the Ambassador’s secretary honoured his role as the show’s comic relief quite well. If there was one thing that was perfect, it had to be the live band playing its part; being just present but not overwhelming the operetta singers.

All in all, this is a show with silly jokes, witty lines, fun singing and mushy confessions of love (with an undertone of what we need to do to save the British economy i.e. keep your money within the fatherland).

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