Money versus love in ‘The Merry Widow’ in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Money versus love in ‘The Merry Widow’ in Breckenridge

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily

Special to the Daily

Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow" will be the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast transmitted at Breckenridge Colorado Mountain College on Saturday, Jan. 17, beginning at 11 a.m. The Metropolitan Opera selected this often-performed and enchantingly melodic performance as its New Year's Eve gala 2015 opera premier.

Since its opening Vienna performance during the early 20th century "golden age," "The Merry Widow" has been in the repertoires of opera houses worldwide. Integral to this success is its melodious music and flirtatious staging of cast interactions, crowd scenes and floating dances, often reminiscent of operettas and Broadway-style musicals. In keeping with this Met HD performance is the singing and acting by Rene Fleming in the role of Hanna, the merry widow, with her opening role described as "swirling through scenes with the ease of a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it."

Following a rousing orchestral prelude, the Act I curtain rises, showing the ornate 1905 Paris embassy of the fictitious country Pontevedro. Baron Mirko Zeta (sung by baritone Thomas Allen) leads his embassy staff and guests in a toast. In the dialogues that follow, it is revealed that Hanna Glawari — widow of the wealthiest man in Pontevedro — is counseled to never marry a foreigner during her sojourn in Paris, as the transfer of her wealth would lead to financial disaster for her tiny home country.

Next to arrive on the scene is the Pontevedro patriot, Count Danilo Danilovich (baritone Thomas Allan), who was once in love with Hanna, but any match had been forbidden by his uncle. Hanna herself then walks into a welcoming crowd.

Danilo in self-confession reveals that he will never say, "I love you" to Hanna, as it may be misinterpreted as "I love your money." Many flirtations are observed, including one by the Baron's wife, Valencienne (soprano Kelli O'Hara, queen of Broadway in her Met debut), who is having a private flirtation with the young attaché, Camille de Rosillon (tenor Alek Schrader).

In a closing ladies-of-choice dance, Danilo is seen dancing alone as Hanna declines his offer.

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Act II takes place in the garden of Hanna's mansion, where she has organized a symbolic Pontevedro party. She interrupts the folk singing and dancing by singing the well-known ballad of Vilja, the story of a forest nymph who falls in love with a mortal man. Next is a swirling set of dancers, imported by Hanna to simulate the can-can dancing performed at the cafe Maxim. As one of the many flirtatious party scenes, Hanna jokingly announces her engagement to Camille. Danilo, in a rage, exits for a trip to Maxim's to forget his troubles, reciting a warning fable about a princess who ruined herself to spite her lover.

Act III takes place in a replica of the famous Paris Maxim's cafe, being transformed from Hanna's garden as part of the stage choreography. Featured are dancing girls in ballet and in can-can fashion. Upon arrival, Danilo is handed a telegram confirming the imminent financial ruin of Pontevedro. He soon learns that Hanna's engagement to Camille was a joke. As Hanna makes it clear that she has declined any marriage proposals, precluding any transfer of her money to a future husband, all rejoice in a final melodious and joyous chorus, ensuring that the financial future of Ponteverdro is preserved.

The vocal, choral and orchestral performances, the latter under the baton of Andrew Davis, are absorbing throughout the opera. The new staging by Broadway virtuoso director and choreographer Susan Stroman, recipient of five Tony Awards as director and choreographer of Broadway musicals, together with the design team under Julian Crouch and the turn-of-the-century, lavish multicolored and emblazoned costumes created by designer William Ivey Long, provide art-nouveau settings that will leave this production in the hearts and minds of all who attend.

Singing and dialogues will be in English, but written subtitles will be included. Many will leave humming one or more melodies unique to this operetta/opera, in particular "Vilja," "You'll Find Me At Maxim's" and "The Merry Widow Waltz."

If you go

What: Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow,” part of the 2014-15 “Met Opera: Live in HD” broadcast season

Where: The Finkel Auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge campus, 107 Denison Placer Ave., Breckenridge

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17

Cost: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Met Members and $10 for students and children

More information: Light snacks and beverages will be provided at intermission, donation requested. For ticket information and purchase, call the National Repertory Orchestra Office at (970) 453-5825. Ticket purchase may also be made online by visiting the NRO website at http://www.nromusic.com.