Review: THE MERRY WIDOW at Portland State University Opera

This light-hearted PSU production runs through April 28.

By: Apr. 26, 2024
Review: THE MERRY WIDOW at Portland State University Opera
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I am so thrilled to know about the Portland State University Opera program! Their current offering, THE MERRY WIDOW, is the second opera I’ve seen there, and I am extremely impressed by the professional level of the performances as well as the production. If you’re an opera fan and haven’t checked it out yet, you should! Not only to see the next generation of performers as they get their starts, but because it’s great opera!

THE MERRY WIDOW is a 1905 operetta by Franz Lehár, with libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein. It premiered in Vienna and has subsequently been translated into several languages and become a romcom crowd pleaser. The version at PSU has been updated and set in the 1960s, and it is sung in English.

The opera tells a tale as old as time. Hanna Glawari, a woman whose older husband recently died leaving her a fortune, finds herself surrounded by fortune-hunters. The most persistent is Baron Zeta of Pontevedro, the fictional country where the opera is set, who wants Hanna to marry Count Danilo to ensure her money stays in their cash-strapped nation rather than being taken to Paris, which Hanna has threatened to do. What Zeta doesn’t know is that Hanna and the Count have a prior history and thus their own opinions about the situation. On the one hand, it’s a boisterous comedy full of silly situations, misunderstandings, and over-the-top characters. On the other, it’s about how hard it can be to find and express true love in a world where many other things always get in the way.

The PSU production features mostly undergrads, with a rotating cast for the main roles. I saw Serena Mason as Hanna and Andrew Walton as Count Danilo, along with Krista Shaeffer as Valencienne, Jere Burkholder as Camille de Rosillon, and Xavier Davidson as Baron Zeta. They were all excellent, as was the rest of the cast and the PSU orchestra.

One of the things I love about this production is how lively it is. It’s full of physical comedy and solid acting. In addition to singing beautifully, this cast has embraced the theatricality of the art form, and the result is a heck of a lot of fun.

You have two more chances this weekend to see THE MERRY WIDOW at PSU. I recommend you take them. Details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Chad Lanning


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