'Widow' brings laughter to MAC
Lively opera and infidelity go together like wine and cheese.
Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár’s comedic operetta “The Merry Widow” premiered Thursday night at the Musical Arts Center.
Performers treated the audience to a production that was sophisticated in style but playful in concept.
Originally premiering in Vienna in 1905, the show received a 1920s makeover with Parisian Art Deco elements.
“The Merry Widow” centers about the drama surrounding the title character, wealthy widow Hanna Glawari of Pontevedro.
At a ball at the Parisian embassy, ambassador Baron Zeta tries to ensure Glawari’s fortune remains in the country by getting her to marry another Pontevedrin.
He enlists Count Danilo Danilovich to woo her, not knowing that Danilovich and Glawari were once in love long ago.
Meanwhile, the Baron’s wife, Valencienne, cheats on him with Frenchman Camille de Rosillon.
Rosillon desperately wants to be with Valencienne, but she insists that she is “a respectable wife” and encourages him to court Glawari as well.
“The Merry Widow” is not a love triangle, but an adultery octagon.
It offered subtle commentary on the institution of marriage while lightening the air with humor and dramatic irony.
Actors exchanged elaborate ball gowns and long-tailed tuxedos in Act 1 for traditional Parisian garb in Act 2. The set in each act was extravagant.
Though the dialogue was translated to English, original German music remained. English subtitles were displayed on a screen above the stage.
While the songs were in a foreign language, the passion and emotion transcended the words.
The opera was double-cast and mostly starred Jacobs School of Music graduate students.
Thursday night’s cast sang about love, danced the waltz, and cracked jokes in various accents.
Sophomore Kate Schutte attended the opera to see some of her friends who were in the production.
Knowing how busy the members of the cast were outside of rehearsal made the show even more impressive, she said.
“I love it. I think it’s funny and I can’t stop laughing,” she said during the second intermission. “I’m just impressed by how well it’s all put together.”
Schutte was not the only one who appreciated the production as a whole.
“It’s well balanced. The voices, the dancing, it all comes together really well,” audience member Elke Kowal said. She and her husband Krzysztoff Kowal come to the IU operas often.
Costume designer Linda Pisano’s family was also in the audience. Her husband Paul came with their sons, Massimo, 13, and Liam, 8.
Paul Pisano said he prefers more serious operas but the lightheartedness of “The Merry Widow” had its perks.
“It’s a lot of fun to have something I can take the boys to,” he said.
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