Music ReviewsOperaTom Williams

The Merry Widow Die Lustige Witwe

Operetta in three acts originally in German, sung in Englishthe MerryWidow at Lyric Opera chicago

Music by Franz Lehar

Libretto by Viltor Leon and Leo Stein, after Henri Meilhac’s comedy L’ attache d’ ambassade (1861)

English lyrics and dialogue by Sheldon Harnick

Conductor Emmanuel Villaume

Stage Director Gary Griffin

Choreographer Daniel Pelzig

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lavish spectacle and melodic voices and music from ‘The Queen of Operettas’ engrosses audiences

Franz Lehar’s  1905, The Merry Widow, translated by Sheldon Harnick and sung in English is directed by Gary Griffin in his debut at the Lyric Opera of chicago.  This sweet, comic and heartwarming sentimental production is one of the celebrated and most popular operettas ever written. Griffin’s wonderfully staged production suffered from some early sound problems including inaudible dialogue and vocals that were corrected in act two and three.

the MerryWidow at Lyric Opera chicago

Filled with a large cast including many veterans of the Chicago musical theatre scene together with five expert opera performers, the Lyric Opera’s melodic production is a most pleasant experience.  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 Emmanuel Villaume’s deft leadership of the Lyric orchestra.

the MerryWidow at Lyric Opera chicago

The Merry Widow takes place in Paris. It opens at ballroom of the Pontivedrian Embassy where Baron Zeta (bass-baritone Dale Travis), the Ambassador is dealing with the possible bankruptcy of his country. His solution involves having his attache Count Danilo (tenor Roger Honeywell) marrying the very rich widow Hanna Glawari (soprano Elizabeth Futral). While he is matchmaking, Baron Zeta has failed to realize that his wife Valencienne (soprano Andriana Chuchmaan) is engaged in a passionate flirtation with a French officer Camille (tenor Stephen Costello), the Count de Rosillon.

11. web use only, Andriana Chuchman, THE MERRY WIDOW, 2009-10, RST_8974, c. Dan Rest


The fun begins when Hanna arrives to entice her suitors in a ladies’ choice dance and she uses this ploy to get Count Danilo to profess his lover for her. In a series of smart and thoroughly romantic plot moves , The Merry Widow is a sweet operetta. Act two features terrific choreography by  Daniel Pelzig aptly depicting Hungarian folk dances to the rich haunting melody of “Vilga” emotionally sung by the fabulous Elizabeth Futral.  The men deliver a cute dance number “Every Woman” as an ode to how difficult woman can be.

02. Elizabeth Futral, Act 1, THE MERRY WIDOW, 2009-10 RST_8041 c. Dan Rest

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 satisfies.   I especially was impressed with the personae and vocals by Elizabeth Futral. Roger Honeywell’s acting chops equaled his strong tenor voice. Stephen Costello and Dale Travis sang their hearts out. The  lavish production values at the Lyric Opera give a rich flavor to this enchanting operetta.  See this show.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, call 312-332-2244

Wednesday December 9, 2009 7:30 PM
Friday December 11, 2009 7:30 PM
Monday December 14, 2009 7:30 PM
Wednesday December 16, 2009 2:00 PM
Friday December 18, 2009 7:30 PM
Sunday December 20, 2009 2:00 PM
Tuesday January 5, 2010 7:30 PM
Saturday January 9, 2010 7:30 PM
Thursday January 14, 2010 2:00 PM
Saturday January 16, 2010 7:30 PM

Running time is 2 hours, 55 minutes with 2 intermissions, through January 16, 2010

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