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<<<  <<  -- 4 --  Robert Hugill    PROFOUNDLY SATISFACTORY


For the Pontevedrian revels which open Act 2, Anthony Van Laast and Nicola Traherne created some very traditional choreography which rather outstayed its welcome. But for the scenes between Danilo and Hanna, many of which are without words, the choreographers created something which was rather more expressively naturalistic, enabling Roocroft and Graham-Hall to use the scenes to develop their relationship.

It is in the big ensemble scenes, like the mock Maxim's in Act 3, that Copley showed his talent for organising a stage without ever seeming to; the ensembles, complete with dancing and singing, were presented with a lively verve and fine clarity. Perhaps the grisettes in Act 3 were a little too polite, but then Lehár's music at this point lacks real raunch.

The ending, when it came, was profoundly satisfactory; all the more so because Roocroft and Graham-Hall had managed to convince us that there was a very real possibility that it might not happen. Roocroft was a lovely Hanna, always with a glint in her eye and enjoying the situations with a directness very apt for the characters. Graham-Hall created a roué who never expects to get a second chance and can't quite believe it when the chance comes.

The ENO orchestra played magnificently under Dohnanyi, sounding as if they played this style of music all the time ... if only the balance issues could be resolved.

Amanda Roocroft as Hanna Glawari in English National Opera's 'The Merry Widow'. Photo © 2008 Clive Barda
Amanda Roocroft as Hanna Glawari in English National Opera's 'The Merry Widow'. Photo © 2008 Clive Barda

John Copley has created a new production, which though traditional in outlook, deals with very modern issues of class and money. Of course, you can't turn Lehár into Richard Strauss (or Zemlinsky) and Copley does not try to, but this means the production inevitably lacks a certain element of danger. Not everyone will appreciate Lehár's rather fluffy plot, after all the opera is based on a French farce by Meilhac. But if you can leave your angst and longing for the Vienna of Freud behind, then Copley has produced a hit which takes Lehár's work seriously and manages to be entertaining whilst still packing an emotional punch.

Copyright © 3 May 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK





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