Opera

Lehár's The Merry Widow

Helmut Lohner (stage director), Franz Welser-Möst (conductor) – Opernhaus Zürich

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Cast

Helmut Lohner — Stage director

Rolf Langenfass — Set designer, costume designer

Robertus Cremer — Lighting

Giorgio Madia — Choreographer

Dagmar Schellenberger — Hanna Glawari

Rodney Gilfrey — Graf Danilo

Ute Gfrerer — Valencienne

Rudolf A. Hartmann — Baron Mirko Zeta

Piotr Beczała — Camille de Rosillon

Herbert Prikopa — Njegus

Zurich Opera Chorus

Ernst Raffelsberger — Chorus director

Zurich Opera House Orchestra

Franz Welser-Möst — Music director

Program notes

Pleasure for the sake of pleasure.

The Merry Widow blends skillfully the elements that made the success of the genre of the operetta: lightheartedness, cheekiness, slapsticks of every kind; elements brought to the fore with brio by the remarkable production of Helmut Lohner, and the stunning Dagmar Schellenberger in the role of Hanna Glawari.

Against the French Grand Opera ridden with deadly serious plots and pompous bombast, the operetta emerged as an anti-intellectual genre mocking the academic codes set forth by the Meyerbeer-Scribe couple. In this respect, no one defines better the operetta than the witty Saint-Saëns: "the operetta is an opera-comique's daughter that went bad, but this kind of girls are usually not deprived of charm." And indeed, The Merry Widow, created in Vienna in 1905, was performed more than 20,000 times over the four following years!

A hint of nostalgia arises in watching Lehar's masterwork. Swirling waltz, dizzying celebrations remind us of the final splendor of the 19th century, of the Belle Époque's exuberance.

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