Opera Review: The Merry Widow


Presented by State Opera South Australia
Reviewed 29 Nov 2018

The latest production by the State Opera of South Australia is a magical concoction of song, dance and colour. Written by Hungarian composer Franz Lehar in 1905 The Merry Widow has enjoyed popularity right up to today. Director and choreographer Graeme Murphy has imbued this well-known operetta with new life. The show is well paced and contains love, jealousy, plots, humour and satire; what more could an audience want.

On the beautiful set, designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell, this story is played out in three acts. Act one in the Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris has gilt screens and columns with black stairs, very rich looking. Act two in the garden of Hanna Glavari (the Merry Widow) is beautifully appointed with a wrought summerhouse complete with peacocks and a backdrop that looks like it was painted by Monet. Act three takes us to Maxims in Paris with a glorious central red staircase. Damien Cooper’s lights complemented every set and Jennifer Irwin’s costumes were right for the era and fun.

The updated libretto in English by Justin Fleming keeps the wit and the sarcasm alive and is easy to follow. In the hands of this outstanding cast it is a joy to hear, especially the wonderful tones of the widow herself Antionette Halloran. Alexander Lewis sings her on again/off again love Count Danilo Danilovich and their scenes together have presence. The ambassador, Baron Zeta, a pompous man who wants Hanna (a rich widow) to marry a Pontevedrian citizen to keep her money in the country settles on Camille de Rosillon as the perfect bachelor for the job. The complication is that he is in love with a married woman, the baron’s wife! Andrew Turner does well as the Baron and John Longmuir is strong as Camille with an outstanding duet in Act Two. Mark Oates has fun as the Baron’s offsider Njegus, being the voice of reason and the deliverer of some great one-liners. His song in Act three with the CanCan ladies is a definite highlight.

Adam Goodburn and Shaun Brown play their suitor roles for comedy and other major players give us some wonderful moments, Nicholas Cannon, Norbert Hohl, Deborah Caddy, Sarah Jane Pattichis, Joshua Rowe and Catherine Campbell all play roles well. This is backed up by the always-fine State Opera Chorus lead by Chorus Master Simon Kenway and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Wyn Davies. Add to all this a team of talented dancers choreographed by Graeme Murphy and Shane Plancentino and a sense of fun that seems to pervade the entire company.

This is a stunning production and should not be missed!

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide
Season: 29 Nov – 6 Dec 2018
Duration: 3hr 10min
Tickets: Adult $80-140 Conc $70-130
Bookings: https://stateopera.com.au/performances/merry-widow/

Photo credit: Darren Williams



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Glam Adelaide Arts Writer & Reviewer

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