Operetta harks back to lost golden age of Strauss waltz

The Merry Widow, Grand Theatre, Leeds

Monday, 1st October 2018, 3:39 pm
Updated Monday, 1st October 2018, 3:47 pm
The Merry Widow at Leeds Grand Theatre

Next month it will be 100 years since the end of the conflict which was to change Europe forever, yet one relic from the forgotten days before the Great War survives.

Franz Lehar's operetta was already out of date when it was written, a straggler from the golden age of the Strauss waltz, preserving in aspic a Ruritanian world of glittering balls, the ladies dressed in tiaras and net curtains and the men in military uniforms almost entirely made of gold braid.

Opera North's revival of Giles Havergal's production, first aired in 2010, wisely presents it as the museum piece it is, with no attempt at updating or irony.

It gets by (just) by sending itself up. The costumes, set and choreography are as over-the-top as the ooh-la-la naughtiness of fin de siècle Paris they evoke.

Baritone Quirijn de Lang holds things together as the dissipated Count who rescues his bankrupt country by marrying the wealthy widow (Maire Flavin) of the title. Opera North's excellent chorus is much in evidence and Geoffrey Dalton gives a nice comic turn as a cuckolded ambassador.

But if all the voices had been as strong there would have been no need for Kit Hesketh-Harvey's often witty English translation to be accompanied by surtitles.

- Philip Andrews