A Met Opera ‘Operetta’: Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”

Saturday, Jan 17, 12:55 p.m.

By Alan Schuster

Here are a few good reasons to buy a ticket – perhaps a pair – for Saturday’s performance of “The Merry Widow.” First, it is generally considered to be the finest operetta ever composed. Second, the title role will be sung by Renee Fleming, who is generally considered to be the finest lyric soprano in today’s world of opera. And third, it will be sung and spoken in English – and without any German subtitles!

Often called ‘The Queen of Operettas’, Lehar’s romantic comedy had its premiere in Vienna in 1905, enjoying rapid international success. In 1934, it became a popular movie starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, and in 1975, it was debuted as a ballet in Australia.

Peter Davis, author of “The American Opera Singer,” writes that “No composer wrote lilting melodies more frequently than Lehar. The music is so familiar that audiences tend to take the score for granted, seduced by those ever-fresh tunes.” Each of the three acts features a memorable gem. In the first, Danilo, frustrated by his embassy job, looks forward to the day’s end: “Then I go to Maxim’s where I am very much at home.” It’s only shortcoming is that it is too short. Hanna’s bewitching folk ballad in act two – “Villias, the spirit maids who haunt our woods” – is a golden moment for any soprano, and thus perfectly suited for Ms. Fleming. And finally, a beautiful duet for Hanna and Danilo, “Love unspoken, faith unbroken,” leading to Lehar’s most memorable tune of all-time, the “Merry Widow waltz.”

The singers: Co-starring with Renee Fleming as Hanna will be Nathan Gunn as Danilo and Kelli O’Hara as Valencienne. Andrew Davis will conduct.

All seats are general admission. Adults, $20; OLLI members, $18; Students, $10. Or order online at  www.uscbcenterfor thearts.com. Box office opens at noon: 843-521-4145.

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