Illuminating performances from Opera Australia

The Merry Widow

For any newcomer to the world of opera who is reticent about taking the initial plunge, this operetta is the perfect place to dip your toes in. Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widowis a delicious blend of soap opera and wit, entirely accessible and yet not shallow like most froth due to its exuberance and ability to laugh at itself.

Lehár’s score does much to drive its delightful operetta with a warm and seductive frolic through the narrative, interweaving bold comedic elements and a sense of frivolity throughout. If not for the latter and the bawdy humour that interjects the dialogue and libretto, the audience would be at risk of being overdosed with saccharine, which luckily never happens.

This is yet another consummate production by Opera Australia, simply bursting with confidence and energy. The set design is exquisite, the costumes thematic and colourful and the performances self-assured and highly engaging. Kudos to conductor Brian Castles-Onion and director Giles Havergal for such a strong yet relaxed handling of this operetta.

I recently wrote that when an opera is translated and performed in English it loses some of its beguiling essence. This production is performed in English and yet loses none of its charm, which I largely credit the performers with.

Amelia Farrugia is a stand out as Hanna, successfully walking that fine line within the character of being both confident and vulnerable. This exciting and electric soprano could easily start a heart beating again. Having said that, there are no performances to fault here. David Hobson as Danilo, Nicole Car as Valencienne, Henry Choo as Camille and John Bolton Wood as Baron Zeta are dazzling in their roles, for which they look like they’re having the time of their life.

That this production didn’t get a standing ovation on the day that I saw it has more, I believe, to do with the fact that for all its great points its still light fare. On the feat of this production and its illuminating performances alone it deserves a standing ovation.

Karla Dondio

Karla Dondio is a Melbourne based freelance writer who has been reviewing theatre, comedy, cabaret and other live assortments for five years now.

Karla Dondio

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