Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vienna weekend, part 2.

The Saturday evening Bardic coincidentally fell on the same weekend as the opening of the Florentine Opera’s season, with “The Merry Widow,” by Franz Lehar. We had a our usual tickets for the Sunday matinee, and got to the Performing Arts Center in good time after a delicious lunch at “Chez Jacques,” a newish restaurant on the South Side that specializes in light French fare: crepes, sandwiches, and charcutrie. (I have had their deluxe pate’ plate, and it was splendid.)

This production was one of the most gorgeous the Florentine has mounted recently. The sets and costumes were rented from the Utah Symphony & Opera and looked smashing. The sets were handsome and evocative, and the costumes were particularly nice. In the first act, which is the Embassy Ball celebrating the birthday of the monarch of Pontevedra, the men are all in formal dress, white tie with decorations, and all the women are in wonderfully elegant black and white ensembles, except for Hanna, the “Merry Widow,” whose outfit is entirely a glorious red. For the second act, a party in the garden of Hanna’s house, the cast wears variations of “Pontevedran national costume,” with emphasis on shades of amethyst and aquamarine. For the third act, Hanna’s engagement celebration, the men are back to formal wear, with the scene enlivened by women’s more colorful evening gowns and the Maxim’s chorus girls.

The plot is a classic operetta theme, used as well in “Czardas Princess” and others: Nobleman (“Count Danilo”, Philip Cutlip) loves commoner woman (“Hanna Glawari”, Diane Alexander) but cannot marry her due to class barriers. She goes off and has experiences that make her an acceptable mate, in Hanna’s case, marrying and then outliving Pontevedra’s richest man. Danilo would not marry her for her money, but is commanded to win her by royal decree, since allowing her fortune to go out of Pontevedra if she took a new foreign husband would bankrupt the country. Since the story is set in Paris, Danilo not only has to overcome his own reticence, but outwit the swarm of impoverished French noblemen who lack his scruples. Being France, there is also a farcical subplot involving the wives of the Embassy staff, notably the Ambassador’s spouse, Valencienne (Heather Buck), and some of these same Frenchmen.

The story works out with a lot of good humor, lush music, and (in this case) adequate dancing. There was, to our ears, flawless singing by all the cast, well supported by the orchestra under the direction of Mark D. Flint, who is a new guest conductor for the Florentine. Kudos to stage director Albert Sherman for a very enjoyable and sparkling show.
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