Opera Review: The Merry Widow Is A Glorious And Coarse Love Story

The Merry Widow, London Coliseum ★★★★☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 60 months ago

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Opera Review: The Merry Widow Is A Glorious And Coarse Love Story The Merry Widow, London Coliseum 4
Photo: Clive Barda

Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow comes barrelling into the Coliseum in a freshly ribald translation by April de Angelis and Richard Thomas, which makes its heroine the feminist survivor of a deathbed marriage, reminiscent of Anna Nicole Smith.

This 'Widow' is all about the Balls. And the Beavers. And the operatic tenors pissing actual streams at onstage urinals. Balls, because what's Ruritanian Europe without them in 1905 and the lovely lush tunes demand dancing. Beavers are the national symbol of bankrupt separatist Pontevedro, whose ambassadors are desperately trying to keep the Widow's recently-inherited millions in the country. The topical political ironies are inescapable especially when director Max Webster hammers them home with a massive mallet.

As the widow herself, the impeccable Sarah Tynan has more fun than is decent, glorying in her South London vowels and teetering between high glamour and early Madonna tartiness. Her on/off relationship with louche Count Danilo — Nathan Gunn in splendid voice — mirrors Carrie and Big in Sex and the City, and this production is all the more accessible for it.

There's barely a line or lyric that hasn't been rewritten, but the sets and costumes stick firmly to the fin de siècle origins, making it exuberant, elegant and engaging all at the same time. Everyone is having such a brash, coarse time of it that Gerard Carey as the comic non-singing Embassy secretary Njegus almost struggles to stand out from the ebullient ENO crowd. But he does, and it's very well done.

There are some audibility issues, hopefully addressed during the run, but the cheeky subtitles will keep you abreast of proceedings.

Happy. And Glorious.

The Merry Widow, London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4ES, £25.50-£138.50. In repertoire until 4 April

Last Updated 04 March 2019