NARROWSBURG — Franz Lehar's operetta "The Merry Widow" has been performed as a ballet and a film (1934), and its best television production aired in 1977 on PBS starring Beverly Sills in the leading role.
Why so popular? It is an engaging story!
The Baron Zeta, ambassador to Paris from Marsovia, must see that the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari marries a Marsovian, thus keeping her fortune in the country, which is nearly bankrupt. He and his wife host a ball in her honor, and he orders Count Danilo Danilowitsch to woo her. But it seems that years ago the count was her suitor when she was a mere commoner. His family would not allow them to wed. Now that their social class is no obstacle, their pride is. She wants to hear him admit his love for her and he does not want her money.
Delaware Valley Opera is presenting a tuneful version of "Widow" in the intimate Tusten Theatre in Narrowsburg. The orchestra of eight under the capable baton of Jim Blanton accompanies a vocally impressive cast.
Eileen Mackintosh and Christian Bowers portray the star-crossed lovers. Both are powerful vocalists, and they complement each other in their duets. The scenes where they spar with words and teasing are fun, but they seem more friends than lovers.
A French attaché, Count Camille de Rosillon, is played by Anthony Daino. He presents a tongue-in-cheek Lothario who pursues the married Valencienne and allows her husband the Baron to believe he is wooing Hanna. Daino's jovial, smiling demeanor makes one doubt his sincerity and love for the fair Valencienne, portrayed by the lovely Jody Weatherstone. Dennis Sprick, as the oblivious Baron, appears appropriately officious and vocally appealing. Sprick's Baron seems more concerned about his country than his marriage.
The ladies ensemble does its best but, unfortunately, except for the girls who double as can-can dancers, the rest of the ladies are relegated to standing around chatting and drinking champagne. The entire male cast has a terrific number in Act 2 that could be titled "Girls, Girls, Girls." Stage director Kim Eschenberg has given them lively steps that the men have a grand time executing.
There could be more effort given to the visual aspects of the production. The simple and serviceable set designed by Greg Boyan changes little from scene to scene. The men wear tuxedoes, and most of the women wear one dress for all three acts. More of a guiding hand could have kept the period consistent and provided some color to the production.
Operettas are not serious fare, and Delaware Valley Opera does its best to present a light, enjoyable "Merry Widow." They succeeded in that, based on the smiling faces of the audience members as they left the theater Friday night.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow," staged by Delaware Valley Opera
Where: Tusten Theatre, 210 Bridge St., Narrowsburg
When: 3 p.m. Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8
Tickets: $25, $22 senior citizens and students, $15 age 12 and younger