Utah Opera’s Merry Widow is a riotous romp

Comedic opera is not my favorite – I enjoy more the pathos, murder, and misery of a tragedy. So although I was sure I would enjoy Utah Opera’s The Merry Widow, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it. I was so mistaken!

This production harks back to old Hollywood. Not the high glamour of the 50’s, but rather the frolicsome bawdiness of the 30’s. The “Merry Widow’s” first entrance was worthy of Mae West, and the physical comedy and humor throughout the show was directed and timed like a Marx Brothers sketch.

The Merry Widow, courtesy of Utah Opera
The Merry Widow, courtesy of Utah Opera

The Merry Widow is the story of Hanna, who is young, rich, and recently widowed, and the men who are vying for her attention and her fortune. Add in an old flame, straying spouses, and an assortment of can-can girls and you have an evening where you only stop laughing to appreciate the sublime singing.

Caroline Worra had her Utah Opera debut as Hanna, and she was a charismatic lead. Her voice was warm and dramatic, and her acting and chemistry were top notch. Daniel Belcher is a regular guest at Utah Opera and always a joy to hear. Sadly, he was sick on opening night but went on anyway aided by a microphone – the first time I’ve seen this done at Utah Opera. Perhaps the miking of just one voice threw the acoustics off – I felt the give and take between singers and orchestra was often a little unbalanced, making it difficult to hear some of the voices. The leading cast was rounded out nicely by Robert McPherson, Sharin Apostolou, and Michael Wanko. They have all sung with Utah Opera recently and it’s a pleasure to see such talent returning to our state.

The sets and costumes were widely touted beforehand, in fact you can read more about them in an article by Heather King, and they were glorious to behold. I could have watched Act 2 over and over again just to study the depth and painting of the drops and set pieces and all the differences and details in the costumes.

Utah Opera’s The Merry Widow continues through January 24, 2016 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at utahopera.org or arttix.org

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