REVIEW ROUND-UP: The Merry Widow at English National Opera

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Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Max Webster’s production of Lehár’s operetta.

The Stage: ★★ “But it’s essentially due to a new book and lyrics that depart so liberally from the original as to neuter its tensions. Instead, the level of humour aimed at includes the visual joke of an elderly man falling over and a relentless sending-up of a character who is presumably, as he describes someone else in the script, “not of the marrying kind”. It would be flattering to label the result Carry on Pontevedro.”

Gay Times Magazine: ★★★★★ “It won’t please everyone with its high-camp, more-is-more approach to the humour of the piece, and some might not enjoy its ferociously modern language, use of Americanisms and contemporary references – but we utterly adored it and found ourselves grinning from ear to ear the whole way through. Bravo ENO.”

The Guardian: ★★★ “Webster’s staging combines gaudiness with panache.”

The Telegraph★★★★ “Although operetta and the classic musical comedies should be on English National Opera’s regular à la carte, they’ve had extraordinary difficulty over the decades in finding the right singers and right productions for the dishes.”

Evening Standard: ★★★ “With a sharp new book by April De Angelis and adroit translation of lyrics by Richard Thomas, they subvert the misogynist, high-kicking spectacle of showtime, empowering rich widow Hanna Glawari with the kind of status normally enjoyed only by men. Too often, though, parody of the genre verges on pantomime.”

The Independent: ★★★★ “The love story takes a while to get going – we need to believe in it, and initially we don’t because the acting doesn’t allow us to. But when it does, and when Tynan’s singing at last takes off, the whole caboodle becomes airborne and floats away into a starry night.”

Culture Whisper: ★★★ “With many performances to come, this often puerile Merry Widow might get over its slight self-indulgent fit of the giggles and settle into something the whole class can enjoy.”

Planet Hugill: ★★★★ “There was a lot right with this production, and the whole was done with a lightness of touch and lacked both the earnestness and the end-of-pier humour which can sometimes kill English versions of Viennese and French operetta. The production does not seem to have quite come into focus yet, and whilst the ensemble sparkles and glitters wonderfully, the two principals are not the centre of attention that they should be.”

Bachtrack: ★★★★ “For the first new production of The Merry Widow seen in London in years, ENO has a hit on their hands. With a few more performances, the cast will surely settle into the timing and iron out the few minor kinks. In the meantime, the raucous laughter of the first-night audience was proof enough that this is the most fun one can have in a night out at the opera right now.”

The Reviews Hub:★★★ “Webster’s production trumpets its female empowerment credentials throughout the show, yet with marriage as the end goal all round, Valencienne denied a truly happy ending and Hanna reduced to a male-fantasy figure in stockings and suspenders to finally get her man, it’s not always easy to see how these contemporary feminist sensibilities fit with what we see on stage. Beautiful to look at but where The Merry Widow is most modern is in the orchestra pit.”

British Theatre Guide: “This is what operetta should be all about: sharp, funny and filled with beautiful music performed to the highest standards.”

Mature Times: “Max Webster’s production, conducted by Kristiina Poska, takes a broad, heavy-handed slapstick approach. “

Plays To See: ★★★ “Kristiina Poska from Estonia was an accomplished conductor and the piece sounded pretty good, given that the Coliseum is just too big to be an ideal home for this sort of operetta. It is a production with a wicked sense of mischief and it goes for – and gets – laughs.”

The Merry Widow continues to play at the ENO until 13 April 2019.

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Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.
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Emma Clarendon on FacebookEmma Clarendon on InstagramEmma Clarendon on RssEmma Clarendon on Twitter
Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.

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