The Merry Widow (Die Lustige Witwe) 2015

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The Merry Widow

Operetta in three acts originally in German, sung in English

Music by Franz Lehar

Libretto by Viltor Leon and Leo Stein,

after Henri Meilhac’s comedy L’ attache d’ ambassade (1861)

English translation by Jeremy Sams

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis

Stage Director & Choreographer: Susan Stroman

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Wonderful nostalgic opulence of early 20th Century Europe soars with Lehar’s score

Franz Lehar’s  1905 The Merry Widow, translated by Jeremy Sams and sung in English, is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman after her doing the same operetta at the Met in NYC last season.  This sweet, comic, and heartwarming sentimental production is one of the most celebrated and popular operettas ever written. Stroman’s wonderfully staged production looks terrifi,c with the opulent sets by Julian Crouch and the vivid costumes by William Ivy Long, but, of course, this Merry Widow is an energetic dance operetta besides a wonderfully sung production. Renee Fleming takes over the operetta.

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Filled with a large cast including many veterans of the Chicago musical theatre scene ( Jeff Dumas, Jonathan Weir, Michael Weber, Fred Zimmerman, and Ariane Dolan) together with five expert opera performers, the Lyric Opera’s melodic production is one of the best I’ve witnessed.  Lehar’s melodies and songs – “Vilja”, “The Merry Widow Waltz”, “You’ll Find Me At Maxim’s,” and “Every  Woman” never sounded better than under conductor Sir Andrew Davis’s deft leadership of the Lyric orchestra.

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11/11/15 2:45:54 PM -- The Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents "The Merry Widow" Renee Fleming © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

 Act two features terrific choreography by  Susan  Stroman aptly depicting Hungarian folk dances to the rich haunting melody of “Vilja” emotionally sung by Renee Fleming.  The men deliver a cute dance number “Every Woman” as an ode to how difficult woman can be. Act three features the ladies doing a can-can style dance number at Maxim’s club that finds Valencienne among the girls. The plot hinges on the inability of key characters not being able to vocalize “I love you.”  Everything is resolved and romance wins as this wonderful operetta entertains fully.

11/11/15 3:15:24 PM -- The Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents "The Merry Widow" Renee Fleming © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

In this lush production, Renee Fleming’s charm and sweetness shines and Thomas Hampson’s charisma is winning. Michael Spyres’ roaring vocals were impressive. This Merry Widow will fully engage you with its romantic charm and lush score. Come see this operetta and discover or re-discover why it’s so popular.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago  podcast
Date Reviewed: November 17, 2015
For more info checkout The Merry Widow page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$239; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org., running time 2hours, 45 minutes with intermission, through December 13, 2015https://youtu.be/PRCMr04ZvSk