The lavish new staging of Lehár’s effervescent operetta The Merry Widow is the Met debut of Broadway director and choreographer Susan Stroman, whose many credits include the Tony Award-winning musicals Crazy for You, Contact, and The Producers. Star soprano Renée Fleming adds a beguiling new character to her wide-ranging Met repertory as Hanna, the widowed Pontevedrian millionairess.
Sir Andrew Davis conducts the stellar cast that also includes baritone Nathan Gunn as Hanna’s lover Danilo; tenor Alek Shrader as the young nobleman Camille de Rosillon; and baritone Sir Thomas Allen as the scheming Baron Zeta. Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, best known for her acclaimed performances in South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, and currently starring in The King and I, makes her highly-anticipated Met debut as the Baron’s coquettish wife Valencienne.
The Merry Widow airs on Great Performances at the Met Friday, June 19 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.) (In New York, THIRTEEN will repeat the program Sunday, June 21 at 12:30 p.m.)
The frothy operetta is performed in English, in Jeremy Sams’ new translation. Lehár’s best-known composition has been an audience favorite since its 1905 premiere and features a great deal of well-known music, including the Vilja Song, “Then Off to Chez Maxim,” and the “Merry Widow Waltz.”
Mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato hosts the broadcast.
Opera synopsis from the Met Opera.
When the production premiered, the Huffington Post raved, “The new Merry Widow is breathtaking to look at and a pleasure to hear… It is hard to imagine a merrier widow than Renée Fleming. O’Hara is a small revelation in her first operatic outing, making the transition from the Broadway stage to the Met opera house seem as easy as a subway ride uptown.”
And The New York Times observed, “… from the glowing, subtle performance that the conductor Andrew Davis coaxed from the Met orchestra, it’s clear that he loves the 1905 score.”
The Wall Street Journal declared “Ms. Stroman’s choreography had plenty of sizzle—from the ballroom dances at the embassy to the folk numbers in Act II and the can-can of Act III, the last anchored by the six Broadway dancers who played Maxim’s grisettes.”