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December 2000 - Nr. 12


The Editor
Antje berichtet
Toys under the Tree
St. Martin
St. Martin's Full Moon
Toronto hosts...
Christmas Light Tours
The Merry Widow...
Views & Reviews
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?

The Merry Widow 
conquers Hearts anew

She doesn’t need mountains to climb, rain in Spain or even falling chandeliers to win hearts. Who is she? Why the ‘merry widow’, of course, Lehar’s perennially popular Pontevedrian lass. Since her coming out party at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1905, her radiant smile and seductive melodies have charmed audiences the world over.

Judging from the number of recent high-level productions of THE MERRY WIDOW (Die Lustige Witwe), music lovers are discovering anew the charms of this turn-of-the-century operetta. Though never absent from the stages of opera houses in Germany and Austria, the operetta had never been produced in the lofty confines of the Wiener Staatsoper until last season. This new production starred Barbara Bonney and was lead by no less a conductor than John Eliot Gardiner, better known for his work in the early music field. Frederica von Stade sang the role of Hanna Glawari in Paris and later brought the glamorous heroine to vibrant life at the Met. Placido Domingo, still opera’s reigning hunk, played the role of Danilo, the playboy/diplomat intent on carousing his way through Paris. This production too, was a departure, for the august Metropolitan Opera had never before let the sexy widow loose on its stage.

And make no mistake, she was - and is! - sexy. Who else can claim to have an intimate ladies undergarment named for her? (Until not so very long ago, ladies hid or revealed their charms with an elaborate item called a ‘merry widow’...ask your mother!) The music itself was also of a more erotic nature than people were used to. When Lehar played the score for the original stars, they loved it but the producer Karczag was more than a little doubtful. The unusually sexy melodies, suggestive dialogue and almost Pucciniesque harmonies were something not yet heard in an operetta. The final scene was even set at Paris’ Maxim’s, a turn-of -the-century Playboy Club, where a lady dared not show her face and husbands could forget their vows. Sexual attraction and dalliance through music had never been so frankly shown on stage.

Toronto Operetta Theatre’s widow is the astonishingly beautiful Barbara Hannigan. Born in Nova Scotia, Ms. Hannigan has been acclaimed for her performances at the Salzburg Festival, in Cologne, the Netherlands Opera and recently made her Lincoln Center debut in the opera, WRITING TO VERMEER, staged by the renowned filmmaker, Peter Greenaway. Costarring is Fred Love from Orlando Florida. Movie-star handsome, he will be heard as Danilo, a role once played on screen by Fernando Lamas. Mr. Love has appeared in Berlin at the Theater des Westens and was featured this summer in Stratford’s hit production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

Wildly cheering audiences in Vienna, Paris and New York are evidence that THE MERRY WIDOW’s melodies and scintillating story areas potent today as ever. In Toronto, she reveals her charms at the St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallett Theatre in a new production staged by Guillermo Silva-Marin for the Toronto Operetta Theatre. Just in time for Holiday Season, performances are on December 22, 23, 27 (Matinee), 29, 30 & 31, 2000 and January 4, 5 & 6, 2001.

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