Fun Fact: The Merry Widow first performed in Vienna in 1905, and has the dubious honour of being Adolf Hitler’s favourite operetta. He attended the very first performance and loved it so much he drove everyone mad at the Wolf’s Lair by playing it on repeat
The Merry Widow has spritzed into Adelaide like a fresh breeze in a way that only one of the most popular operettas in the world can do.
Balkan state Pontevedro is in crisis – it is broke and it is desperate to keep the newly minted wealth of the local widow Hanna Glavari (Antoinette Halloran) assured to prevent the state from slipping further into debt. Unfortunately she lives in Paris, and Parisian suitors catch a whiff of that $20 million and descend like well-dressed locusts with the intent on making her their own. At this stage I’m not sure how cold hubby’s body is but no one seems to be concerned about that, as long as the money is fresh and the Widow is available.
Thus begins the tussle between the Pontevedrian officials who are trying to stave off the Parisian talent and match the Widow to Pontevedrian suitor, except the Widow Glavari has her own priorities – reuniting with her first love Danilo (Alexander Lewis), a local Pontevedrian who had been previously forbidden to marry her by his family. It appears a sweet reunion is inevitable and that the Pontevedrian officials will get their wish, except Danilo is repulsed by Glavari’s new wealth and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his ongoing love for her. Thus begins a series of games by the Widow Glavari to recapture her love’s affections.
Antoinette and Danilo are superbly played Antoinette Halloran and Alexander Lewis, and there is genuine warmth and affection between them that adds lustre to their stage relationship. The subplot love triangle between Baron Mirko Zeta (Andrew Turner), Valencienne Zeta (Desiree Frahn) and Camille de Rosillon (John Longmuir) adds amusement and intrigue. The leads are superbly supported by the cast and dancers, and the lavish art deco sets, costuming and styling are gorgeously executed. Vilja-Lied by Halloran is a superb highlight of the performance. If you are a theatre-goer, The Merry Widow is the perfect gateway for newcomers to opera. Performed in English, it represents a lighter genre with a quickly paced storyline based on romance and humour, and a backing musical ambiance that would fit comfortably into the classic period for musicals such as the gorgeous ‘Singing in the Rain’.
This is a glorious production that’s not to be missed.
Review by Sarah List