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I wish I had seen the new-to-Chicago production of Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” at Lyric Opera of Chicago at the beginning of its run rather than towards the end so anyone who reads this might have a chance to enjoy this amazing work as much as I did.
There are just two performances left on Friday, Dec. 11 and Sunday, Dec. 13.
My family has had partial season tickets to Lyric since 2007 and I thoroughly enjoyed it when it was presented during the 2009-10 season. I have always wanted to do an opera review, so here goes.
Having seen over 30 operas at Lyric, I have savored 99 percent of them — the tragedies to the comedies. I prefer opera with a happy ending and the first opera of the season I saw, “The Marriage of Figaro”, and “The Merry Widow” put big smiles on my face.
“The Merry Widow” takes place in Paris just at the turn of the 20th century. There’s a party going on The Pontevedrian Embassy. The country of Pontevedro is broke and Baron Mirko Zeta, the nation’s ambassador to France, is counting on the party’s guests to help out the nation. His plan is to especially focus on Hanna Glawari, who is a rich widow and could help Pontevedro out of its financial hole.
Zeta is counting on Danilo Danilovich, a womanizer and the embassy’s secretary, to marry Hanna and keep her money in Pontevedro. “The Merry Widow” from the beginning gives us plenty of comedic twists and turns as we watch Hanna and Danilo go from not really liking her other to a budding romance.
The music is light and fun and at points during the performance simply beautiful. Time stands still when I hear “Vilja” at the start of Act 2.
When I saw the Renee Fleming was not going to perform the role of Hanna for all the performances, I was disappointed. I shouldn’t have been. Nicole Cabell is singing the role of Hanna for the last three performances including the one I saw Wednesday, Dec. 9. Lyric replaced a hall of famer with another hall of famer.
I’ve seen Thomas Hampson take on some big dramatic roles at Lyric in “Macbeth”(2010-11) and “Simon Boccanegra” (2012-13) and he was fantastic in both. He makes the transition to lighter fare as Count Danilo Danilovich without missing a step.
The choreography is as vibrant as the sets it takes place on.
If you can’t get two the last peformances of this “The Merry Widow”, I encourage you to see it whenever and wherever you have the opportunity.
I return to Lyric in February to see “Nabucco” and “Romeo and Juliet” in March and hope to learn more about opera so I can more substantively show my appreciation for it on this blog.