Maestro Steven Mosteller has the ability to conduct with authority yet still allow his soloists to milk the lovely Franz Lehar melodies for all they are worth. Eliezer Gutman’s fluid and gypsy-like lilting phrases were perfect for the schmaltzy songs of Lehar’s Merry Widow.
Laura Pedersen (as the Merry Widow) is svelte and lithe and wore delicious dresses designed by Lorraine Anderson, each one with a short train, which Pedersen gracefully lifted to the crook of her elbow to be whirled around the floor by Daniel Neer (Count Danilo). Their flawless dancing and strong singing give them that electricity that makes the audience believe in their love “spark”.
The operetta which premiered in Vienna in 1905 is a fluffy and hilarious story based on a comedy by Henri Meilhac. The story pits the Paris embassy staff of an impoverished country against French roués who would love to marry the country’s most wealthy widow. Paris and France are outrageously mocked to great comic effect -- it seemed Maurice Chevalier would come on stage any moment to defend his honor or at least to greet Dodo, Clo-Clo, Lolo, Frou Frou, Margot or Jou Jou.
The set, designed by Cynthia Du Pont Tobias, is a fantasy of Viennese Secession but drawn in more of an Art Nouveau style – with a brick-walled garden turned miraculously into a Parisian café and stage for the can-can girls by Robert Parker and his stagewrights.
The opera has creative choreography by Barbara Winchester who mixes the artists of the First State Ballet Theatre into the ballroom dancing of the rest of the cast with great success.
You can’t help but be uplifted by this production, beautifully coordinated by OperaDelaware Executive Director Leland Kimball! Performances May 1, 6 and 7, 2011.