Thursday, 3 March 2011

Opera North: The Merry Widow – The Lowry , Salford

Writer: Franz Lehar
Director: Giles Havergal
Conductor: Wyn Davies
 Reviewer: Lorna Andrewes

The Merry Widow was one of the last of its genre to be written and less than ten years after its first performance on 3oth December1905, at the Theater an den Wien, the First World war had swept away the light-hearted frivolity of the time and place forever. 
The story is set in Paris, where the Pontevedren Ambassador, Baron Zeta has a major problem to resolve. Stefan Glawari, a banker who held all the nations wealth, has died, leaving his young widow to inherit. This money is needed by Ponevedro to stave off bankruptcy. 

The widow, Hanna, brilliantly sung by Stephanie Corley, has arrived in Paris and Ambassador Zeta, sung by Geoffrey Dolton, is desparate to ensure that she finds a husband from amongst the resident Pontevedrans, not the French. To that end, he orders his nephew Danilo to court and marry Hanna Unknown to zeta, Hanna and Danilo, however, have a past history. Danilo hadfallen for Hanna but was forced to reject her because of her low social position at thetime. Danilo was so devastated when she quickly married Glawari, that he embarked on a life of loose living, drinking and meeting call girls at Maxim's Night Club. Danilo refuses to entertain the idea of wooing Hanna, but promises to at least prevent her choosing a french husband.

There are other flirtatios and sub-plots skilfully woven through the main theme, but Hanna and Danilo continue to torment each other, refusing to admit their love to each other. Only when Hanna tricks Danilo by telling him that she will loose all her money if she marries, does he feel free to declare himself. Ahappy ending is clearly a must and comes when Hanna confesses that all her money will belong to her husband when she marries.

This entire production was full of joyful entertainment and it's simply not possible to pick out any aspect for negative criticism. The singing, unsurprisingly, sine it is Opera North, was a delight to hear and it's tough to single anyone out, but besides the above-mentioned Stephanie Corley, William Dazeley as Danilo gave a fine performance and Allan Clayton as de Rossillon has a clear, splendid tone. The whole piece flowed so well with many moments of humour , lyricism and spectacle.

The set and costumes were excellent, reminders of an age of colour and opulence. The decor, red floor, chandeliers and statuettes worked well, a fairly restrained foil for the exhuberent costumes. The choreography of Tim Claydon added so much to the success of the performance, full of livliness and wit, and the versatility of the singers' involvement in the chorography was unusual and accomlished, Even the great conductor of the very fine orchestra gave a quick jig when taking his applause!
This production was an absolute joy to see from start to finish.

Reviewed on 2nd March 2011
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