Any kind of singing based entertainment normally makes me cringe, and upon reading the title The Merry Widow, I couldn’t but help laugh out of sheer despair.
I feared my life long hatred for all things musical would only be intensified, my only recourse being the interval between the first and second act, bringing the entire performance to a comfortable two hours of what would hopefully be theatrical rigor. Visions of High School Musical or awkward trips to the theatre in my younger years seem to have given me an automatic psychological revulsion to the genre. However, when the opportunity arose, I felt an inclination to give it a chance, hoping that the nuances once lost on me would slide into place, revealing a new world, unexplored.
On arrival to the Theatre Royal I was ushered in by the kindly door man and collected my tickets before being shown to my seat. Missing my opportunity to grab a life-line in the form of a strong G and T, the lights dimmed and the curtains began to rise. The opening number was somewhat forgettable, although I do remember some interesting arm movements and the jolly up-beat tempo. Set in Paris, a ball is taking place in the Pontevedrian embassy. A wealthy widow arrives amongst the spinning gowns and pleated pantaloons. Eligible bachelors crowd the young and spritely widow though there is only one good fit: Count Danilo Danilovich, though the lovable rogue couldn’t seem to care less. The tale is a light-hearted classic including themes such as infidelity, love triangles and all the mischief and mayhem that comes with hidden and secretive passions; wrapped up in a somewhat less classic love story.
While thankfully I did enjoy The Merry Widow, I felt it‘s light hearted nature resulted in my attention drifting a few times, only to come back feeling as though I hadn’t really missed much. Most of the songs -while perfectly pleasant and fun - didn’t often add much in the way of spectacle or story progression. The stand out moment was the performance of the ‘famous’ song, Vilja, which I interpreted to be a mystical retelling of the first encounter of the Merry Widow and Count Danilo.
As a whole, The Merry Widow is a great starting point for anyone looking to dip their toe into the operatic scene. Very accessible and homely, it has sparked within in me an urge to explore this genre that I have so neglected, though with some trepidation.