The Merry Widow (Opera North)
November 8 2018
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
A cork-popping, fizzy production of The Merry Widow from Opera North
In recent years we’ve had Carmen set in the wild west, Monteverdi at the bottom of a disused swimming pool, Mozart in a Perspex cube and Puccini confined to a glorified broom-cupboard. But Opera North’s revival of their 2010 Merry Widow production comes as an antidote to all that.
The sparkling, laugh-out-loud translation of Lehar’s operetta (by Kit Hesketh-Harvey), Designer Leslie Travers’ eye-candy set of chandeliers, sumptuous decor and scantily draped sculptures plus a Technicolor assortment of national costumes, lavish ball gowns and over-the-top military costumes combine to make this Merry Widow a feast for the senses. And the singing and dancing sparkle too.
Despite occasional allusions to an international banking crisis and a world teetering on the brink of war, Director Giles Havergal ensures that this show is pure pleasure from beginning to end.
There are so many hummable tunes (the Gold and Silver waltz, Vilja etc) that the storyline is of relatively minor concern. But at root it’s all about money. Widow Hanna Glawari has billions and mustn’t be allowed to marry a foreigner. The operetta is about how money is first a barrier to true love – and then suddenly isn’t. She gets to marry her man, Count Danilo, in the end, after lots of partying, flirting, secret messages on fans, jealous husbands etc.
Katie Bird makes a delightful Hanna, stunning at her entrance and vivacious throughout. Quirijn de Lang is just right as Danilo, wittily trying to prove that he loves her for herself and not just for her bank account. Geoffrey Dolton is amiably dotty as the Pontevedrian Ambassador, Amy Freston a delightfully spirited, multi-talented Valencienne and Nicholas Watts a warmly lyrical Camille de Rosillon.
The huge Chorus looks and sounds spectacular and conductor Martin André uncorks a fizzing performance from his orchestra.
Opera North’s production of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow
Conductor: Martin André
Director: Giles Havergal
Designer: Leslie Travers
Countess Hanna Glawari: Katie Bird
Count Danilo: Quirijn de Lang
Baron Zeta : Geoffrey Dolton
Valencienne : Amy Freston
Camille : Nicholas Watts
Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North