Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) is a three-act operetta composed by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár in 1905. It has been universally recognized as one of the most glorified masterpieces within the operetta repertoire. The libretto, based on a French comedy, is full of crafty twists and turns. Yet it does not shy away from showing the romantic Parisian atmosphere flavoured with exotic Balkan charms.
An Assertive Women in the World of Men, Forward Thinking Values
The Chinese title of The Merry Widow might be misleading to Chinese audience, as 「風流 (fung lao) 」 might suggest a negative connotation. In fact, the appropiate meaning for fung lao is a sense of happy spirit, which agrees with both “merry” and “lustig” of the English and German titles.
Anna was a beautiful, smart, and wealthy young widow who searched for true love with her wits around men of kinds. Even though it was still a patriotic society, that she could never gain financial independence, she did not fall victim of manipulation or lost herself through lascivious sweet talk, like many other women of that time. Anna’s courage reflects her intelligence, clarity, and independence made her an ideal spiritual model for women of her time.
The 1905 premiere of The Merry Widow in Vienna remained unpopular for the first three weeks. However, it suddenly became an instant hit, and was continuously staged for over four hundred performance before its glorious finale. In 1907, the English adaptation opened in London was sensational, brought forth a “Merry Widow” trend – it became fashionable for London women to dress up like Anna.
The Most Accessible “Lightweight” Masterpiece with a Taste of Austro-Hungarian Romance
Rather than the restrictive format of traditional opera, operetta is more casual, accessible, and entertaining. How so? The music of The Merry Widow is romantic and soothing, and its melody is lyrical and simple. Operetta even features more extensive dialogues, which is very different from traditional opera. It is, for these reasons, an accessible art form, even to those who are not familiar with classical music. The Merry Widow is a “lightweight” form of opera, but it is the “heavyweight” masterpiece of operetta, making it a first-rate introduction to opera.
Many songs of The Merry Widow are universally praised; highlights are the love duet of Anna and Danilo, their entrance arias, Camile’s “Romanza”, Anna’s “Vilia Song”, Valencienne’s “Cancan”, and the enthusiastic septet “Ladies’ Choice!”.
A Lithe Butterfly of Classical Opera, Joined by Principle Dancers of the Hong Kong Ballet
In comparison to traditional opera which emphasizes on singing more than acting and dancing, the operetta The Merry Widow has put more emphasis on dancing. Aside from creating a romantic atmosphere through the music, the work has also inserted numerous joyful and elegant dances, including waltz and cancan, into the story telling. Such feature is less found in traditional opera.
This Musica Viva production will feature Wei Wei, principle dancer of Hong Kong Ballet, and Yuyao Liu, former principle dancer of Hong Kong Ballet. With Hong Kong Ballet, Wei has danced principal and featured roles including Prince Siegfried in John Meehan’s Swan Lake, Prince Désiré and Carabosse in Cynthia Harvey’s The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo and Juliet. He won second prize in the Male Ballet Dancers’ category at the Taoli Cup Dance Competition in 2003.
Liu has starred numerous principle roles including Aurora in Cynthia Harvey’s The Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo and Juliet, and Daiyu Lin in Wang Xin Peng’s The Dream of Red Chamber. In 2014, Liu’s performance of Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow was nominated for the reputable Prix Benois de la Danse. In 2010, Liu was awarded the Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer of the Hong Kong Dance Awards.
Joined by Local Based Award-winning Actor Pichead Amornsomboon and International Casts
Following Musica Viva’s tradition, producer and director Prof. Lo Kingman strives to nurture local young artists. This production of The Merry Widow will be featuring several bright young actors and actresses. Among them is one of Hong Kong theatre’s rising star, Pichead Amornsomboon. Amornsomboon has been frequently starred in theatre productions, his past awards include two-time Hong Kong Drama Award for Best Actor and Best Director, and three-time Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Amornsomboon is a rare actor in the Hong Kong drama world who can brilliantly sing, dance and act.
Two internationally acclaimed sopranos Caroline Worra and Jessica Sandidge will be performing the main role of Anna Glawari. Caroline Worra has been hailed by Opera News as “one of the finest singing actresses around.” She has sung over 90 different operatic roles including more than 20 World, American, and Regional Premieres. Worra has worked with over 80 companies including The Metropolitan Opera, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Boston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, etc. Jessica Sandidge’s soprano voice has been described as “plush” by The New York Times. Of her recent New York City Opera debut in Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione, The New York Times wrote: “Jessica Sandidge’s belated entrance as Galatea came as something of a relief, all the more so for the loveliness of her singing.”
A Viennese Operetta Signature Piece, Adapted by “Father of Western Opera in Hong Kong “
The libretto of popular early operettas are usually poorly conceived and unconvincingly written. However, The Merry Widow broke the norm; not only by having fascinating music, also by its comedic and sarcastic reflections on early 20th century’s value and ethics among the European upper-class. Although The Merry Widow was composed over a century ago, people of modern time would find the characters’ realistic emotions and behaviours relevant.
This adaptation of The Merry Widow is produced and directed by “Father of Western Opera in Hong Kong ”, Prof. Lo Kingman. Lio Kuokman , who was praised by the Philadelphia Enquirer as a “startling conducting talent,” will be leading as music director and conductor. After the previous production in 1998, Prof. Lo has reworked the whole operetta to bring more relevant dialogues, costumes and set designs to the Hong Kong audience.
Special Offer for Our Dedicated Audience
To show our gratitude for the supports of our dedicated audience, Musica Viva is offering 30% off ticket discount to the general public (not applicable for Price Zone D’s tickets). Tickets are available for sale at all URBTIX outlets. Please use our discount code, MVMW, before checking out. Tickets are limited, get them quick!
Lehár’s 3-act Operetta The Merry Widow
Sung in English, with Chinese and English Subtitles
Date: 6 – 8, December 2019
Venue: Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall
Price: $680 | $490 | $350 | $180
(Tickets available at URBTIX.)