Left – David Hobson and Amelia Farrugia. Cover – David Hobson and OA Chorus. Photos – Branco Gaica
There is nothing wrong with a little bit of silliness especially when it comes with brilliant voices, gorgeous costumes and bundles of enthusiasm. Opera Australia’s latest production of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow, under the direction of Giles Havergal, allows its cast to ham it up in the true tradition of a comedy of errors and its shameless pursuit of the cheap laugh is part of its charm. This was a tonic in the midst of another global financial meltdown and much was made of the fictional country of Pontevedro’s precarious economy, the state of Europe and the dubious standing of banking institutions.
David Hobson was in fine voice as the lovestruck lothario Danilo. I have to admit I am a little bit in love with Hobson so he could sing a take away menu and I would be happy. Amelia Farrugia’s Merry Widow Hanna Glawari was vivacious and energetic, fending off numerous suitors, their eyes firmly on her fortune. Her glorious soprano was best showcased in the Vilja Song and her duet with Hobson, Love Unspoken. One odd note was what seemed to be her northern English accent amongst the Australian and French accents. It was inconsistent and a little distracting.
Henry Choo proved himself to be quite the comedian as the hapless Camille, putty in the hands of the scheming, cheating Barroness Valencienne played beautifully by Katherine Wiles. Other notable performances included John Bolton Wood as the cuckolded Baron Zeta, desperately trying to keep his country from bankruptcy while turning a blind eye to his unfaithful wife. Samuel Dundas as Cascada and Warren Fisher as St Brioche were clearly enjoying their roles as the romantic French beaus courting the widow and her millions as well as Nick Christo as Kromov, playing straight man to Baron Zeta. The standout performance was the male chorus’ rendition of the lament, “I wonder what it is they want.”
The set was a little disappointing, very spare and consisting of little more than a few banners and art deco lamps. The life-sized nude female forms holding the lamps doubled as handy props for the testosterone-fueled male characters but they swayed when moved from scene to scene and left the impression that expense had been spared.
Opera Australia presents
The Merry Widow
by Franz Lehár
Director Giles Havergal
Venue: Opera Theatre | Sydney Opera House
Dates: 4 August - 4 November 2011
Tickets: $297 – $44