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Ensemble

Smiles on Faces

'The Merry Widow' from Los Angeles Opera,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

In 1861, the well known French playwright Henri Meilhac wrote L'attaché d'ambassade for the Paris théâtre de vaudeville. Unfortunately it only sold enough tickets to warrant fifteen performances. That would have been the end of it, if it had not appealed to Alexander Bergen who translated it into German for performance in Vienna the following year. It pleased the Viennese and after a lengthy run it was revived several times.

Susan Graham as The Merry Widow. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Susan Graham as The Merry Widow. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

Librettist Leo Stein saw it in 1905 and suggested to Wilhelm Karczag, manager of the Theater an der Wien, that they make an operetta from it. Together with his writing partner, Victor Léon, he began to put together lyrics for a new show which they all hoped would help the theater get out of debt. The chosen composer was Richard Heuberger who had written Der Opernball, a major success of some years earlier.

Greg Fedderly (Raoul de St Brioche), Susan Graham (The Merry Widow) and Malcolm MacKenzie (Vicomte Cascada). Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Greg Fedderly (Raoul de St Brioche), Susan Graham (The Merry Widow) and Malcolm MacKenzie (Vicomte Cascada). Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

After a few months, Heuberger lost interest in the piece and was happy to let the work go to a younger composer. Franz Lehár proved his ability to take on the project by writing a gallop as the Act II duet: 'Dummer, dummer Reitersmann' (Silly, silly cavalier). Because of Theater an der Wien's poor financial condition, its management did not want to expend a great deal of money on Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). All of its scenery and most of its costumes were recycled from previous productions. The leading singers, however, bought their own costumes because they thought the piece was worth it.

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Copyright © 17 June 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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