Sunday, 3 June 2018

Australian Ballet Merry Widow

The Australian Ballet The Merry Widow
Sydney Opera House April/May 2018
This is a lush,lavish and opulent revival of the much loved ballet magnificently danced .A treat for those of us like me who have seen it many times before and also inspiring for newcomers ( like the lady sitting next to me). It is for romantics at heart.

The orchestra under the baton of Paul Murphy bubbled and frothed with the lyrical, lilting Lehar melodies as delightfully arranged by John Lanchbery .

Sir Robert Helpmann, who created the scenario for this work which was premiered in 1975, was most astute in choosing the rest of his creative team – the choreographer, Ronald Hynd, the designer, Desmond Heeley, and musical director John Lanchbery . Hynd’s choreography is a demanding blend of Viennese waltzes, with many difficult lifts, tricky supported turns , very challenging pas de deux, and in Act 2 , blends central European folk dances and exuberant Russian , including a polonaise , czardas and mazurka as the Pontevedrians celebrate in their embroidered black and red vests and skirts, contrasted with red boots and , for the men, flowing baggy trousers .The precise criss-cross-ing swirling patterns for the huge ensembles for the big waltzes are tightly worked out , the Act2 ‘national’ dances combine frieze like circle dances and exuberant showy jumps for the men .
Set and costume designs are ravishing with the sets featuring an plush Embassy office, a wonderful garden for Act2 (with a ‘little summerhouse’) and art nouveau style d├ęcor with opulent mirrors for Maxim’s in Act Three. The costumes are exquisite throughout and I mustn’t forget the can can girls at Maxim’s in Act 3 or Hannah’s special Swan Cloak .

Lana Jones as Hanna Glawari was ravishing – beautiful, alluring, witty, radiant and eventually triumphant.She gave a luminous performance .
Ty King-Wall was handsome and compelling as Danilo.They worked very well together theatrically to create the tensions of the no I don’t love you any more/yes I do poignant, tender moments that are essential to the work.The dreamlike pas de deux in Act 1 ( to Vilja) where both of them remember their younger selves is superb as is the final reconciliation and joyous pas de deux to the Merry Widow waltz.
As Valencienne , Benedicte Bemet was delightful, frothy, flirtatious and teasing, caught between her duty as a married woman and her love for Camille,the dashing ,stylish French attache who was wonderfully danced by Christopher Rodgers-Wilson.

It was also a delight for long time Australian Ballet followers to see David McAllister in the role of fussy somewhat pompous secretary Niegus and Stephen Heathcote as the ambassador Baron Zeta , Valencienne’s husband . Mostly they are played somewhat lightly but Heathcote’s performance when he realises Valencienne loves Camille and magnanimously decides to further their happiness is quite heartbreaking. Both received rounds of applause upon their first entrance and were cheered
mightily at the curtain calls. Other audiences depending on when you attend are privileged to see another long time ballet legend Colin Peasley reprise his role as the Baron.

An enchanting revival that showcases the entire company delightfully.

I attended Monday April 30 2018

Running time – just under 2 hrs 30 minutes (approx.) including 2 intervals
The Australian Ballet in the Merry Widow runs at the Sydney Opera House 28 April -19 May 2018
Conductor Paul Murphy
Hanna Lana Jones Count Danilo Ty King-Wall Valencienne Benedicte Bemet Camille Christopher Rodgers-Wilson Baron Zeta Steven Heathcote Njegus David McAlliste

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