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Boring Merry Widow at Palais Garnier.

Boring  Merry Widow by Franz Lehar at Palais Garnier.

Review by Henning Høholt


Except for two details, the wonderful cancan scene in the very end, and Bo Skovhus as Count Danilo, is this production at Palais Garnier is a catastrophe. It don´t have any charming operetta feeling, it is missing the wonderful atmosphere which this operetta usually gives to the audience. The only details which saved some of it was the two mentioned.

Of course I notice that some of the singers were great, the two guys, fighting about dancing with Hanna Glawari, the good tenor Daniel Behle as Camille des Rossillon, Ana Maria Labin as Valencienne (in a strange white dress, loosing feathers all over the stage), But the ambassador of Pontevedro Baron Zeta played by Harald Serafin, has too weak a voice.

Michèle Lagrange (Praskowia), Fabrice Dalis (Pritschitsch), Claudia Galli (Sylviane), Andrea Hill (Olga), Harald Serafin (Baron Mirko Zeta), Francis Bouyer (Bogdanowitsch), Franz Mazura (Njegus), Bo Skovhus (Graf Danilo) et Francis Duziak (Kromow). Photo: Julien Benhamou

Hanna Glawari was at the season premiere sung by Christina Dietzsch-Carvin
. Who has been stepping in at a very short notice. Looking beautiful on stage, but vocally unfortunately only in the high tunes had the voice to fill up the room. Which did that, for exemple, the Vilja Song not became a hit. This song is being performed in Act 2 , which is set at a party in the garden at Hanna’s house, to celebrate the birthday of the Grand Duke in Pontevedrian fashion, and everybody is usually dressed in Pontevedrian clothing. Hanna entertains by singing an old Pontevedrian song, the famous “Vilja Song” (‘Es lebt’ eine Vilja, ein Waldmägdelein’)
. In this boring production were no party, no garden, no Pontevedrian costumes, but some ok male dancers dancing a folkdance. And in addition the garden scene was spoiled by a not lightened up red curtain, without motivation hanging first in the ones side, and then being moved around. The Merry Widow needs a romantic staging.

Go to The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballett Theatre in Vilnius and see how it can be done, the have a wonderful Merry Widow production. Some people here in Paris left their seats already after the first act.

The Can Canm choreographed by Laurence Fanon saved it all
. Here with the great male soloist. His name should have been on the rolelist! Foto: Julien Benhamou

The orchestra sounded well, conducted by Asher Fisch
. The choir was ok, but not so good that we need to spend so long time by the choir master to enter and make his usual boring applause show.

The costumes was boring by Francesco Zito. no festivitas. In fact we are supposed to be at a galla party at the Pontevedrian Embassy, to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Pontevedrian. Except for the two elegant outfits for Hanna Glawari, I wonder if Christina Dietzsch-Carvin  had brought them with her from Deutsche Oper am Rhein, where she usually are, – as far as I have understod. The entrance hat was good too.


"Crematorium" Scenography by Antonio Lagarto. Photo: Julien Benhamou

The scenography by Antonio Lagarto,, is looking like a hall in a crematorium, the shining doors needs to be polished. It could decoration be for a tragedy, but not for an operetta of this quality. The “Walkyries” hanging in the last scene with firework was an effect, waste of money. The lighting by Dominique Bruguiere was bad. As it quite often is at Palais Garnier, it was not possible to see the mimic in the faces. In all this kind of productions, the mimic is important, and when the light doesn’t help it, we can’t see it. Many of the funny details disappeared completely. The lighting departement needs to do a better work

Can Can Finale. Choreographie Laurence Fanon. Photo: Julien Benhamou


Laurence Fanon´s Can Can in the very end saved the finale, with 18 good dancing can can girls, 10 boys + one virtuose male soloist who together with Bo Skovhuswonderful Danilo saved it all. But i doesn´t understand why the choreographer only was taken in by the dancers a second for a very small applause, and then later the others, stage director, costumier, scenographer came on stage to get appplause, did they forget the choreographer. She saved the finale. But the operetta atmospahere was lost from the beginning.

Palais Garnier, Paris. Photo: Opera de Paris


The Merry Widow (German: Die lustige Witwe) (French: La veuve joyeuse) is an operetta by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen’s attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L’attaché d’ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac.

The operetta has enjoyed extraordinary international success since its 1905 premiere in Vienna and continues to be frequently revived and recorded. Film and other adaptations have also been made. Well-known music from the score includes the “Vilja Song”, “Da geh’ ich zu Maxim” (“You’ll Find Me at Maxim’s”), and the “Merry Widow Waltz”.

Please enjoy Bruno Tredicine´s review of The Merry Widow in Napoli last year in May at: http://www.kulturkompasset.com/2010/05/money-make-the-world-go-around-merry-widow-in-napoli/

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