Noilly Prattle: The Merry Widow at Dresden's Semperoper

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Merry Widow at Dresden's Semperoper

Semperoper today
Dresden's opera house, Semperoper, was destroyed in the aerial bombing of Dresden and the subsequent firestorm by the RAF and USAAF in 1945. Exactly 40 years later, on February 13, 1985 the opera house was reopened with the same opera that was performed just before it was destroyed, “Der Freischütz” by Carl Maria von Weber.

inside Semperoper for The Merry Widow
Last night the SO and I attended a performance of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow at the Semperoper. We were on a day trip from Prague, where we are staying for the winter. It's difficult not to like this charming operetta of a  fictional country, Pontevedro's embassy in late 19th Century Paris. It is full of the best loved-music of Vienna (waltzes) and Paris (can can)--a winning combination full of ear and eye candy. It's a typical love story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl (in the past, before the start of the operetta), boy finds girl again and after several fitful starts and stops boy wins girl.

This performance is done in more or less modern dress instead of period costumes. The set is simple and uses pop art type props such a huge red mouth (out of the parted lips of which the “grisettes” [whores, one topless] emerge) and an enormous hand for a couch. It was all great fun. One thing impressed me especially. The Germans seem to be getting over the Nazi era and can laugh at themselves about it (in the theater anyhow). The portrait of the “king” on the embassy wall resembles Adolf Hitler with light bulbs in the eyes. When the ambassador salutes the portrait he gives a two-fingers extended salute that unmistakably resembles the American icon, a raised middle finger. 

a little nightcap of Gluwein
The lion's share of audience approval went to the can can dancers who did everything can can dancers are supposed to do including showing their derrieres. The main characters' performances were a disappointment however. They were charming enough, but they could not consistently project their voices enough to be heard above the orchestra. They were quite weak and barely audible in Act 1, seemed to be warming up a bit in Act 2, but lost it again in Act 3. Apart from that, all in all, a very enjoyable evening topped of with a nightcap at the nearby cafe.  
Copy and paste the link below for photos and a video of the show.

Principle Cast:

Baron Mirko Zeta:                                        Reinhard Dorn
Hanna Glawari [The Merry Widow]:         Barbara Senator
Graf Danilo Danilowitsch:                          Christopher Magiera
Valencienne:                                                 Nadja Mchantaf
Camille de Rosillion:                                  Aaron Pegram


Ralf Lippold said...

A pity we as opera lovers and critics couldn't meet tonight. Maybe next time. In case you are longer in Dresden send a message - glad to meet. Cheers, Ralf

Noilly Prattle said...

How on earth did you ever find this blog? Nice to hear from you. You look like a very interesting guy (my stats linked me to your page). I, too, have lived in many places: the Middle East, Far East, even Africa. Currently live in Japan and am in Prague for the winter attending operas and concerts. Was in Dresden only one night for The Merry Widow. I was afraid my introductory remarks about reviewing operas might offend opera lovers (especially the one about Don Giovanni at the Met), but they are my true feelings. So be it. If you come to Prague, let me know; would like to meet sometime. My email address is on the left sidebar. Thanks again for your comment. I don't get many.