Vocal Verve, Bubbly Fun in ‘Merry Widow’
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 16:10
When talent meets a good time, any audience is in for a treat. Such was the case with the Fargo-Moorhead Opera’s two performances of Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widow” last weekend in Festival Concert Hall.
As one of the most well-loved operettas in existence, “The Merry Widow” has been held in high favor with opera fans for over a century. An infectiously funny plotline with a lustrous list of songs comprises the three acts of this somewhat absurd story.
Wealthy widow Hanna Glawari (soprano Stella Zambalis of blazing abilities) has come into a 20-million-franc fortune following the death of her banker husband, a sensitive situation indeed. Her fictitious fatherland of Pontevedro has an economy that would collapse should she remarry outside of the country.
With the widow on a luxurious getaway to Paris following her inheritance, Pontevedrian officials swoop in to prevent any possible marriage to a Parisian. Baron Zeta (baritone Peter Halverson), his councilors, and embassy clerk (a scene-stealing Andrew Alness) descend upon Count Danilo Danilovitch (the fabulous tenor David Hamilton), the Pontevedrian-Parisian ambassador, to make him marry the widow and keep all that lovely money in Pontevedro’s pocket.
Subsequently, a secondary love story is spun between Baron Zeta’s wife (Holly Janz) and Camille Rosillon (Gennard Lombardozzi), a wealthy Parisian. Their affair is a lighthearted one and eventually reaches an end that is all for the best.
Lightheartedness, in fact, is at the core of “The Merry Widow,” as the only care or concern found here is whom Hanna will wed. Throughout all of this wondrous silliness were rich songs carried by the cast’s tremendous voices. An unimpeachable orchestra wended its way alongside the performers, who went without electronic amplification, relying only on vocal verve.
Two of the most memorable “Merry Widow” songs were Hanna’s “Vilja” and the male characters’ can-can number “Girls, Girls, Girls.” An encore of the hilarious chorus of the latter came at the end of the song as well as at the end of Act Three with the entire cast.
Zambalis hit notes never before imagined with “Vilja,” a Pontevedrian fable song. True vocal beauty shimmered whenever this soprano queen opened up to warble, winning over the audience every time.
Sung in English and bedecked with plenty of dialogue, “The Merry Widow” was the perfect opportunity for any opera first-timers to get acquainted with the art. Trying something new is something everyone needs to do now and then, and a standing ovation goes to the F-M Opera for putting this masterpiece on.
“The Merry Widow” was presented by the Fargo-Moorhead Opera at Festival Concert Hall on Oct. 25 and 27.