Reviewed by Nigel Chester
What I know about opera, can be written on the back of a postage stamp in wax crayon, so, I was surprised to find myself at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham to see Franz Lehar’s, The Merry Widow. My opera loving companion assured me that I was in for a treat and he wasn’t wrong. So, let me tell you that it was a phenomenal performance, at one point more than thirty performers on stage and an orchestra in the pit, the spectacular performance they produced was breath-taking.
The operetta premiered in 1905, but was based on an 1861 comic play, but I think that this 2010 production is relevant and pure fun. Firstly, it is sung in English and there were large portions of spoken dialogue. It was laugh out loud funny, the story is simple, boy meets girl, but his parents think her unsuitable and they part. Some time later, they meet again, Hanna (Katie Bird) is now a fabulously wealthy young widow and the catch of the century. The loss of her wealth, greater than that of her nation of Pontevedro, would be a crushing blow to the country and the union between Hanna and her old flame Danilo (Quirijn de Lang) would suit the establishment. It is clear that they both love each other, but will not marry for convenience. Hanna wants true love, and Danilo wants a wife who does not think him a gold-digger.
Danilo is a swell, who spends his time in Maxim’s and it’s girls, we are lucky enough to enjoy their show, the best Can-Can, during Hanna’s ball, how they managed to sing and dance at the same time, left me breathless (as it probably did them),
There is a sub-plot, involving the Ambassador, Baron Zeta (Geoffrey Dolton) and his unfaithful wife Valencienne (Amy Freston), a lost fan, and more unfortunately, a found fan. Baron Zeta’s stage presence and mannerisms, coupled with Valenciennes’s vocal performance stole the evening for me.
Danilo (de Lang) was a cross between Flash Harry and a young John Cleese, but had the voice of the well accomplished Baritone that he is, his performance engaging and delightful.
The costumes and staging were sublime, set in the early 20th century, each dress and tiara a delight, and who doesn’t like to see a man in full evening dress?
I was transported to another world and time. I enjoyed every moment and the audience clearly felt as I did, there was loud applause at the curtain and chatter on leaving.
I now know more about opera than I ever did, and can tell you that it is amazing; so, if you’re a newbie like me, or an aficionado, this production by Opera North is a must see.
For other shows at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND