As an operetta The Merry Widow is absolutely delightful; but as a performance it is magical. It was a spectacular buffet for my eyes and ears to consume. The music, the singing, the dancing and the costumes were all somewhere close to fairy-tale perfection. Combining everything was a saucy stylized awareness; these tongue-in-cheek romantic clichés went down as smooth as chilled champagne – I could have imbibed all night. Camille Sanit-Saëns has said that "Operetta is the daughter of opéra-comique, a daughter who has turned out badly, but daughters who turn out badly are not always without charm." I must confirm that this operetta is absolutely seductive: its a simpering sultry coquette promising every delight possible in return for proper payment – in this case, the audience's undivided attention. Of course, it isn't difficult watching Frédérique Vézina and Jean-François Lapointe together onstage, their combined charisma is quite captivating.
The story is a convoluted mass of lovers and politics: including the question of whether money can guarantee happiness or maybe impinges on its possibility? Set in the palace of the Parisian delegation of the small principality of Marsovia, The Merry Widow revolves around Missia Palmieri (Vézina)- a rich and alluring Marsovian widow. The wife of Ambassadow Popoff (Normand Lévesque), Nadia (Nathalie Paulin), gives a ball in Missia's honour and the lovely widow is immediately swamped with invitations of every description. Nadia plans to marry Missia to her young lover Camille de Coutancon (John Tessier), therefor freeing her marriage from the strain of temptation. This plan has no real hope of working though, because Prince Danilo (Lapointe)-an embassy attaché and confirmed rogue-is in love with Missia – and she with him! As the Prince is a penniless noble, he cannot bear the idea of marrying Missia's overwhelming fortune. His pride leads their relationship to a tormenting stalemate until Missia uses all of her womanly wiles to gain her heart's desire. It is discovered that Palmieri's will has a strange codicil: upon re-marrying, his widow renounces her claim to his fortune – in order to bestow it on her new spouse. Love and money do not always mix but there are always exceptions.
Watching The Merry Widow is comparable to eating cheesecake; its rich, sinful and probably bad for you but you just can't stop. Its a delicious performance by the entire cast. The crew must have spent countless hours toiling over the marvelous sets and costumes. Conductor Bernard Labadie kept the music as lovely and whimsical to match the story, while I am sure that Stage Director Jacques Leblanc put in countless hours to create such an effortless fantasy. More then worth the time and money, The Merry Widow is not to be missed!
May 29, June 3,5,7,9 and 12 2004 at 8 p.m.
Operetta in three acts: In French with English and French supertitles
41$, 65.75$, 86.85$, 107$ (Weekdays); 43.75$, 70.25$, 93$, 114$ (Saturday)
L'Opera de Montréal: 514.985.2222