Opera Scotland

Lustige Witwe 2005Welsh National Opera

Read more about the opera Merry Widow

Debate no doubt continues among opera lovers as to whether The Merry Widow or Die Fledermaus represents the best example of Viennese operetta.  Scottish Opera, having had excellent productions by Anthony Besch and David Pountney, respectively, back in the seventies,  had struggled more recently with mediocre stagings of both.

Welsh National Opera's visit in 2005 was especially welcome because of its new production, in French, of Verdi's Don Carlos, still little known in Scotland (only brought to the Edinburgh Festival by the Royal Opera a few years before.  This staging, in five acts, did not replace memories of the company's previous attempy some years before of the four act version in English.  It all seemed a bit ponderous, and that problem also seemed to afflict the operetta that played on alternate nights.

In prospect this Lehár production seemed very promising, but somehow it didn’t quite work. The production team have an excellent record in a wide range of operas in Britain.  Welsh National had previously featured their stagings of Gluck  (Iphigénie en Tauride) and Bizet (Carmen). That Bizet production had also worked for Scottish Opera.   Most promisingly, the success of their ribald  Scottish staging of Offenbach (La Belle Hélène), in a sharp new translation by John Wells,  showed they also had an expert light touch in classic operetta.

All the omens were therefore good for another example of the genre.  But this Widow all seemed a bit flat, especially when compared to the delightful Carl Rosa staging seen in Glasgow a few months earlier, and which also used the excellent Jeremy Sams translation.  The American tenor Tracey Welborn (a superb Paris for Scottish Opera) and Australian baritone Jeffrey Black were both in poor vocal form on the night reviewed.  There timing of the dialogue was OK.

Lesley Garrett was the established star in the title role.  Her previous visits to Scotland had just been in the occasional concert, and she had never been known in Scotland for her operatic work, which was mainly with ENO in London.  Again she was slightly ill at ease vocally, though her acting was also fine.

Of the leading romantic quartet, only the lovely Ailish Tynan completely fulfilled expectations.  She made a delightfully attractive Valencienne, full of energy and catching the style perfectly.  Much credit also belonged to the familiar Scottish double act of Donald Maxwell and Linda Ormiston.  Geoffrey Dolton, unaccountably, had not worked in Scotland for several years, and his beautifully timed Njegus also helped the performance along.

The chorus and orchestra also did well.  But somehow the whole show sruggled to make its proper effect.  Of course it could be simply that the Festival Theatre lacked the appropriate level of intimacy.

Performance Cast

Baron Mirko Zeta Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris

Donald Maxwell

Valencienne Zeta's wife

Ailish Tynan

Count Danilo Danilowitsch Secretary to the legation, reserve cavalry lieutenant

Jeffrey Black

Hanna Glawari a wealthy young widow

Lesley Garrett

Camille de Rosillon

Tracey Welborn

Vicomte Cascada

Howard Kirk

Raoul de St Brioche

Michael Clifton-Thompson

Bogdanowitsch Pontevedrian Consul

Julian Boyce

Sylviane wife of Bogdanowitsch

Fiona Harrison

Kromow Counsellor to the Pontevedrian legation

Simon Curtis

Olga wife of Kromow

Helen Greenaway

Pritschitsch retired Pontevedrian colonel, Military Attaché

John King

Praskowia wife of Pritschitsch

Linda Ormiston

Njegus Chancery Clerk at the Embassy

Geoffrey Dolton

Lo-Lo a grisette

Amanda Baldwin

Do-Do a grisette

Daniella Ehrlich

Jou-Jou a grisette

Paula Bradbury

Frou-Frou a grisette

Anitra Blaxhall

Clo-Clo a grisette

Neda Bizzarri

Margot a grisette

Rosie Hay

Performance DatesLustige Witwe 2005

Map List

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

12 Oct, 19.15 14 Oct, 19.15

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