Several stand-out performances in UWOpera's The Merry Widow
- Written by Iain Paterson
The golden and halcyon days of the classical Viennese operetta represented by Strauss ll, von Suppé et al. were superceded by the Silver Age of operetta that flourished during the first quarter of the twentieth century as ushered in by native composers such as Stolz, Kálmán, and Franz Lehár. As a fin de siècle confection the Viennese operetta was still popular but now within the context of an overarching nostalgia: the longing for the effete sophistication and romance of High European Hapsburg society.
Lehár’s The Merry Widow (“Die lustige Witwe”) is still a huge crowd-pleaser notwithstanding its longevity and society’s protean exchanges of cultural and aesthetic tastes in music and morals. Judging from last night’s audience reaction this musical work has not shed any of its charm.
As far as operetta and opera plots go The Merry Widow is right up there with the best of them: flirtatious assignations, mixed signals, missed opportunities and redemption. It plumbs the depths of the darker and enlightened shades of our human condition with psychological realism as egos are unleashed, whetted, and seduced by the allure of ‘filthy lucre’ (in this case Pontevedrian billions). In true operetta fashion all is brought to a merry conclusion buoyed by Lehár’s refreshing and sparkling waltzes and melodies.
The stand-outs in UWOpera’s production of The Merry Widow at the Paul Davenport Theatre were several.
Josh Clemenger’s portrayal of Camille de Rosillon was a most satisfactory one. Emotionally involved with his character and equipped with a pleasant operatic voice, he presented an unaffected and genuine performance.
Mark Anthony del Brocco brought Baron Zeta’s stock comedic character very much to life with appropriate stylized gesticulation and blustering cuckoldry.
Jillian Clarke as Valencienne Zeta turned in a superb performance singing beautifully and acting her role with subtlety, control and confidence. Her poise and stage presence were impressive.
Evan Korbut’s Danilo Danilovitch was almost perfection. His character oozed charm as he swaggered about the stage with attitude and ease, yet with vulnerability too. Although his singing voice at times could have been stronger, there were moments when smooth and silk-like sounds were definitely audible and pleasantly memorable.
Gwenna Fairchild-Taylor who played Hanna Glawari (aka the Merry Widow) could belt out the musical numbers with no hesitation; a little more warmth and personality throughout her singing would have made for a more authentic and engaging performance. Sometimes the delivery of her lines appeared to lack dramatic intensity.
A strong chorus of singers, actors, and grisettes parisiennes successfully created the heady ambience of Paris a few years before the outbreak of World War One.
Choreographer Miranda Wickett’s and Director Michael Cavanagh’s production of The Merry Widow is a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable one. Humorous stage business executed as if all part of a musical waltz itself moved each of the scenes along seamlessly. Their interpolation of contemporaneous political material within the Urtext was not at all obtrusive. If it can work in G&S operettas why not here?
Each of the three acts was designed with its own original lighting, set and costuming, all providing visual cues most appropriate for this operetta’s time and space.
The orchestra under the baton of Judith Yan was too loud at times, almost rendering some of the singing unintelligible. That said, Lehár’s score was played with precision and musicality.
This Merry Widow took advantage of clever direction, pleasant singing and strong performances all of which producer Theodore Baerg can be proud. Many left the theatre humming Lehár’s infectious tunes, all the while being stared down by a larger-than-life projected image of Professor Baerg himself.
Huh? Go to the show and you’ll see what I mean!
There is one performance left today at 2:00pm Sunday, November 18. Tickets available at the door.
(Out of 4 Stars)
Iain Paterson is a Musical Theatre Performer and founder of The Broadway Singers.
Red Hot Weekends offers up
Beatles biggest hits Mar. 22 & 23
Orchestra London welcomes conductor Jean-Michel Malouf and Juno nominee Jim Witter to the stage for The Long & Winding Road: Music of the Beatles, on March 22 and 23 at Centennial Hall.
Last season Orchestra London showcased The Beatles’ more experimental work with their albums Rubber Soul and Revolver. This time around their biggest hits are featured, including All You Need is Love, Hey Jude, Penny Lane, Let It Be and many others.
“It is a great experience to be part of that synergy between a classical symphony orchestra and a rock band,” explains Malouf. “The raw energy of the rock band combined with the refined colors of an orchestra is a richness that I'm thrilled to work with."
Aeolian Spring Art Exhibition opens March 20
Six local artists are featured in the Aeolian Spring Art Exhibition March 20 to May 24, curated by volunteer and artist, Mary-Ann Jack-Bleach.
The artists are Albert Adilli (oils), Patti Fisher (watercolour, mixed media batik), Gilles Gauvin (photography), Jiana (oils), Joanne Vegso (watercolour) and Pam Wilkinson (watercolour, batik).
Gilles Gauvin’s “Boat at Sunrise” and Pam Wilkinson’s “Lighting the Way”
Each artist has several works of art on display and available for sale.
Georgy Tchaidze a formidable talent
Georgy Tchaidze, piano
The Jeffery Concerts, March 16, 2013,
Wolf Performance Hall, London, Ontario
Georgy Tchaidze is a remarkable musician whose talents are enjoying wide recognition. He received the 2009 Honens First Laureate, a prize that confers distinction and opens doors to great performance opportunities in Canada and abroad.
Mr. Tchaidze, though very young – he is not more than 25 years of age – evokes memories of artists who arrived from the former Soviet Union several decades ago. The business-like poise was reminiscent of Emil Gilels as he strode onto the stage, briskly acknowledging his audience, and immediately turning full attention to the work at hand. The quivering intensity of purpose became apparent in the opening bars of Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828, a composition of great stateliness. Tchaidze’s powerful, clean technique is obviously an enduring tradition coming out of the Russian conservatories; it is an easily identifiable style to anyone who studied Melodiya recordings imported from the USSR during the heyday of their popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s.
The Consul: a cast of young gifted singers shines
Music by Gian Carlo Menotti
Produced by Theodore Baerg
Directed by Timothy Nelson
Choreographed by Miranda Wicket
Music Direction: Simone Luti
Music performed by Sarah Dardarian and Simone Luti
Paul Davenport Theatre
March 15, 16 - 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15 adults, $10 seniors and students; Grand Theatre box office:
Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” may arguably be his most recognized opera because of its seasonal appeal. The Consul, by contrast, is a pithy and disturbing musical drama which is driven by a darker and coarser aesthetic, as political and bureaucratic oppression subverts life, liberty and humanitarian Enlightenment.