THE TORONTO OPERA REPERTOIRE
THE TORONTO OPERA REPERTOIRE'S production of THE MERRY WIDOW is a delightful light operatic romp replete with Can-can dancers and male choral interludes that bemoan the unpredictable identity of their female paramours. Franz Lehar’s 1905 operetta ages well as a farcical, comic example of how gender stereotypes collapse into themselves when they are exploited by male characters who are as socially ill adjusted as the women they simultaneously love and malign.
Highlights of the TOR production include the gorgeous, smouldering sounds of Pablo Benitez Astudillo’s Camille de Rosillon as he effortlessly makes his way through mellifluous duets and powerful romantic diatribes about his love for the tantalizing affections of Zeta Valencienne. Caroline Colantonio’s Valencienne is a beautifully rendered and subtly demure counterpart to the assertive strains of Astudillo’s Camille.
Gerald Hannon’s Baron Mirko Zeta is charming as the over wrought Grand Duke in search of a romantic solution for his beleaguered country's predicament. David Roche as the Njegus, the Baron’s assistant, delivers a layered comic performance as the bumbling, concerned, foppish stock character who attempts to shield his master from the unpredictable and playful couplings that occur throughout. Given the illustrious careers of these two community icons a bit of homosocial, lightly erotic subtext might have been a nice, performative touch.
Jennifer Rasor’s merry widow is another musical highlight of the evening as she matches Astudillo’s seamless highs and lows, and presents a strong, confident version of the compromised widowed subject in search of a financially viable and romantically fulfilling partner. Jay Lambie as Danilo, the hapless prince caught in a classic triangulated love match, creates a strong and delightful contrast to his co-stars.
The overall ensemble excels in strong melodic choral moments as they gather together to support and observe all of the priceless and promising movements of coquettishness, cash, and masculine haphazardry located precariously within their tiny threatened little Grand Duchy - and piano accompaniment by Rina (Hyewon) Kim is divine!
The delightfully convoluted ending of the show reveals just how skilled a woman has had to be, historically speaking, once confronted with legal structures that have restricted the movement of capital when it has been left to a biological female in search of a brand new conjugal playmate. It is a merry romp indeed as all of the characters cavort from Royal balls to folk dancing festivities and rollicking Parisian restaurants in pursuit of a secure economic future for the tiny, financially tenuous, and utterly imaginary Balkan country of Pontevedro. What with current global concerns over the monetary stability of a variety of countries, both great and small, this century old musical gem is a lighthearted reminder of how much can go terribly wrong when capitalism reigns supreme.
THE MERRY WIDOW RUNS UNTIL MARCH 2ND AT THE BICKFORD CENTRE (777 bloor west, christie subway) for further information online go to: http://www.toronto-opera.com/