Fun Will Flow with ‘The Merry Widow’
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 16:10
For its 45th season premiere, the Fargo-Moorhead Opera is bringing an operetta filled with frothy fun to Festival Concert Hall Friday and Sunday. “The Merry Widow,” composer Franz Lehár’s best-known work, will light up the venue with its lighthearted story backed by wondrous voices.
As an operetta, “The Merry Widow” has tastes of both an opera and musical theatre. It debuted in December 1905, and quickly caught on with wild popularity and helped ignite the start of American musical theatre. Operettas of the past had little to offer in their storyline, lacking very much in substance until “The Merry Widow” came along with something wonderfully new and entertaining.
“The title character is a woman from the mythical country of Pontevedro—which really was thinly disguised Montenegro,” David Hamilton, tenor and executive director of the F-M Opera said. “She has inherited her husband’s fortune when he passed away…which actually ties up most of the economy of this little country.”
Leaving Pontevedro for Paris to live it up luxuriously, the merry widow is pursued by the Pontevedrian ambassador to halt any impending marriage. With a fortune that would collapse the economy like a house of cards should it leave Pontevedro, any marriage the merry widow may enter into in Paris would spell disaster for the tiny nation.
“The whole plot revolves around trying to keep the merry widow from marrying a Parisian,” Hamilton said.
Packed with gorgeous music from a live orchestra, “The Merry Widow’s” repertoire bursts with tuneful songs that will leave some humming on the car ride home. The night’s voices will feature Stella Zambalis as the title character. Zambalis, a guest performer in many operatic companies the world over, has been hailed as one of the best modern sopranos on the planet.
“[S]he’s just loads of fun to work with,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got a director who is just bouncing off the walls, he is so high-energy. It’s really very much in musical theatre style. There’s lots of comic, almost slapstick comedy stuff.”
Antics in the “Merry Widow” run rampant, as the various characters rush around all through the three acts. One such example is the merry widow purchasing an entire restaurant for one night and moving it into her home.
“Our leading man Danilo is drowning his sorrow in champagne at the famous Parisian night spot Maxim’s, which is where all the can-can girls are,” Hamilton said. “So in order to kind of force him to come back into her home, she buys the entire restaurant for a night—moves it to her house. So the entire third act is Maxim’s transposed to the merry widow’s home in Paris.”
Arguably a romantic comedy in operatic form, “The Merry Widow” holds much in store for its audience. A full-blown, full-power production will unfold with vocal verve and resonance no one will soon forget.
Students have the enormous advantage of reduced ticket prices ($5 at the door), while NDSU students have the bonus of venturing no further than their campus to attend the show. With all the area arts scene has to offer, Hamilton hopes that area students will dip their toes in the waters of the opera this weekend, as any student who has not experienced one yet has the door opened wide.
“Why would you not want to take advantage of everything that there is to offer here?” Hamilton said. “Sure, you want to go to Bison games, you want to go to Little Country Theatre plays, but why would you not take advantage of everything there is while you’re a student and while you can get these inexpensive tickets. You’re gonna love it.”
“The Merry Widow” is presented 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 and 2 p.m. Oct. 27 at Festival Concert Hall. Tickets are $5 for students before the show. Other tickets range from $40 to $80. Tickets are available at the box office prior to the show and by phone at 701-239-4558.