A Small but Opulent ‘Widow’
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“The Merry Widow” turned 100 last year, and the popularity of this operetta continues unabated. An effervescent new production at the Dicapo Opera Theatre is currently drawing capacity audiences to the company’s pleasantly intimate theater in St. Jean Babtiste Church on East 76th Street.
The current production has the extra bonus of bringing to New York the late Wendy Wasserstein’s translation of the dialogue, which she prepared for a revival by the San Francisco Opera five years ago (seen on PBS and released on video). It was not her only dip into operatic waters, for she also wrote the libretto for an opera in the triptych “Central Park” seen at Glimmerglass Opera and the New York City Opera a few years ago. The “Merry Widow” translation is fluent, not overbearing, witty, and in accord with the spirit of the work.
I’ve never seen an updated production of “The Merry Widow” and one reason surely is that the piece falls into the category of those operas, like “Tosca,” that are firmly rooted to their time and place. The current production by Michael Capasso, with sets by John Farrell and costumes by Angela Huff, re-creates fin de siècle Paris with remarkable opulence for a small company. The first act might have served for that of “La Traviata,” and as the partying continues in Anna’s house and, of course, Maxim’s restaurant, the surroundings convey the right sense of splendor.
Mr. Capasso’s performers come both from the worlds of opera and theater — an apt mix for a work like this — and if a few creaks in the work show through, they are offset by the prevailing good cheer. Laura Pederson brings a gleaming, richly textured soprano and a nononsense manner to the title role. Her Danilo is played with winning vitality by Mike McGowen, whose plucky baritone serves well enough in the musical numbers. Gary Giardina brings a warm, urbane touch to Baron Mirko Zeta, whose wife Valencienne (the clear-voiced Amy Lynn Grable) carries on with her admirer Camille (tenor Authur Shen, sometimes under pressure) in dangerously close proximity to him. Destin Tucker got some of the best laughs as the meek embassy secretary, Njegus, and conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos keeps spirits high in the pit.
Until October 15 (184 E. 76th St., between Lexington and Third avenues, 212-288-9438).