The Merry Widow
|Date||25th February 2023|
|Venue||The Norbury Theatre, Droitwich|
|Type of Production||Opera|
|Musical Director||Richard Jenkinson|
Author: Bruce Wyatt
Preparations for this production started prior to the pandemic and should have been part of Opera Worcester’s 70th anniversary celebrations in 2022. It was also plagued with problems including cast changes, even up to within the week of and during the period it was staged, but feel sure all involved would believe it was well worth it in the end. The director Anthony Ravenhall adapted the production from the original Edwardian setting to the early 1930s, amending some of the script adding some very amusing comical moments, which I felt worked well. The set looked very attractive, based around the famous Café Maxim’s in Paris, with a string quartet on stage, directed by Richard Jenkinson, which I am pleased to say provided support without over-powerring the players.
After a warm opening ensemble number led by Brioche (Edward Kimberley), we meet Natalie (Baroness Popoff) well played by Catherine Barrett and Viscount Camille De Jolidon played equally so by Robert Felstead, recruited at very short notice, who sang an accomplished duet ‘A Dutiful Wife’, although actually proving not to be. However, Baron Popoff is initially none the wiser and this was well played by Paul Ellis, who pleased with his skills of judgment, considered Natalie a perfect wife. The Merry Widow herself, Sonia, played by the experienced Patricia Head, excelled in both acting and singing and in view of her huge fortune, was eagerly pursued by all the men.
The Baron is determined that any future husband of Sonia is from the Marsovian homeland to keep her fortune in the country and save it from bankruptcy and so sends a messenger Nadia (Katie Downes), to find the suitable Prince Danilo, played with great stage presence by Phil Joseph. Danilo is happiest at Café Maxims especially with all its girls and sings ‘Maxim’s’ well. Danilo and Sonia are former lovers and he is initially determined not to marry her, even for wealth, until it is announced that Sonia will marry the French bachelor Camille. Meanwhile John Caldwell (General Novakovich) and Madeline Kirby (Olga Novakovich) provided good support, he amusingly concerned about her flirtatious ways.
Act 2 opens with the ensemble and underlined how beautifully dressed the company were. Patricia then sang the well- known ‘Vilia’ beautifully with the ensemble and this is followed amusingly with the men singing ‘Oh the Women’ - Danilo, Popoff, Brioche and Cascada (Samuel Taunton) with the ensemble. Later in Act 3, No- No (Diane Kimberly) gave us a flavour of ‘The Girls at Maxim’s’ with dancers projected on to back cloth and this was followed by Nadia leading ‘Tres Parisienne’ with style.
The final company number was sung with strength and it was obvious the audience appreciated the effort in finally bringing this production to the stage.