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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best Merry Widow on DVD at the moment
This is a really good version. It has many of the things which are essential to a satisfying performance: it is sung in German (with sometimes comical subtitles), the sets are suitably traditional without being stuffy, the conducting (Welser-Most) is excellent, and the principal couple (Schellenberger, Gilfry) are young enough and act brilliantly (even if they are not as...
Published on 27 May 2009 by MRM

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mixed feelings
I was very much looking forward to seeing this DVD, but I must admit some disappointment. The production was good, and the conducting was excellent. Unfortunately, the singing was, frankly, second rate. Neither of the two principals were what I would consider good singers, and felt that they let the side down. The non-singing role of Njegus was excellent! I give it...
Published on 31 Jan. 2013 by redversb


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best Merry Widow on DVD at the moment, 27 May 2009
By 
MRM (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is a really good version. It has many of the things which are essential to a satisfying performance: it is sung in German (with sometimes comical subtitles), the sets are suitably traditional without being stuffy, the conducting (Welser-Most) is excellent, and the principal couple (Schellenberger, Gilfry) are young enough and act brilliantly (even if they are not as powerful vocally as they might be). Among the rest of the cast, Ute Gferer is terrific as Valencienne, Piotr Beczala is strong vocally as Rosillon, and Herbert Prikopa is hilarious as Njegus (and stand-in conductor). The music is played with a wonderful lilt, and the whole thing is a lot of fun.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stand-out production and performance which, in my opinion, easily leads the current field, 16 Nov. 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This recording of The Merry Widow, recorded in 2004 at the Zurich opera, to my mind has it all and must therefore lead the field and by a considerable amount. I say this having previously owned, and replaced the much praised version by Yvonne Kenny at San Francisco. More about that in the course of this review.

The current production is essentially a traditional one and is sung in the original German with subtitles provided for non-German viewers. This is a great advantage as, like most operas, there is a flow and pacing as well as the actual sound of an original language which simply works better than any translation. Apart from that, the exact words being sung, even in translation, are often hard to distinguish as they are sung therefore subtitles can often be of use even for native viewers. In the case of the San Francisco performance, the enunciation of the words is frequently difficult to follow and there are no subtitles to help so this version in German is actually easier to follow.

The cast are uniformly excellent and features many absolutely stand-out contributions. Not least is the non-singing role of Njegus. This is wonderfully performed by Herbert Prikopa who shows an instinctive awareness of comedic timing and is able to make the amusing script a very funny on-going event. This consequently has an enormous linking role and adds pace to the whole production. In the San Francisco production the comedy in the spoken script is far too laboured and is not in the same class of entertainment. The supporting male roles of competing suitors and husbands are all well delivered and maintain the same degree of pace throughout. Piotr Beczala in particular is able to make the most of his tenor voice and manages the technical challenges of the higher parts of the range without any sense of vocal stress.

The key supporting female role of Valencienne performed by Ute Gfrerer is another stand-out role as she is a very attractive woman of a suitably young age with plenty of energy as appropriate to her role. She has a most attractive voice and is this respect is well able to balance Dagmar Schellenberger on the several occasions when they sing together throughout the opera. Vocally she is more than able to deliver on the more extended vocal challenges of the range with unforced tone. She is also a very able dancer when taking a leading role `et moi' in the extended Act 3 dance sequence at Maxims.

In turning attention to the two key roles of Danilo, played by Rodney Gilfry, and Hanna (the Merry Widow), played by Dagmar Schellenberger, we are met by two performances of such skill that one almost forgets that we are watching an entertainment as opposed to real events. The relationship between these two is electrifyingly believable and underlines the quality of the libretto which so accurately reflects the emotional interaction between the two characters as they jostle for position as their relationship re-ignites. Both Dagmar and Gilfry are of the correct age and personal attractiveness to make this entire scenario totally dramatically acceptable. They are both fine actors as well as outstandingly good singers. In addition, Rodney Gilfry's delivery of the German dialogue has a fluency to match Dagmar's own natural home language and, coupled with his own evident enjoyment in the role, makes for greatly enhanced entertainment value.

All of this points up a fundamental flaw in the alternative San Francisco production where I personally find Yvonne Kenny a major problem. Her voice is no longer quite up to the part with quite a lot of the vibrato of the sort that one can associate with age. Far more worrying however, is the lack of communication between her and those she is singing or talking to. She focusses on delivering to the audience instead and this destroys the intended relationship that is supposed to exist between herself and Danilo and which is so obviously evident in this Zurich production.

The whole production sizzles under the expert conducting of Franz Welser-Most who also brings out sparking playing from the fine Zurich orchestra. The dancers and whole operatic company all produce fully involving support for the main roles.

Finally, one must mention the actual recording quality at Zurich. This has camera work that draws the viewer in and totally involves the viewer in the unfolding stage events. The imaging is crisp, of sharp definition and of good tonal range. The sound is excellent and is presented in DTS 5.1, DD 5.1 and stereo options. This may not be a Blu-ray disc as yet but in no way is it inferior to the San Francisco option.

In summary therefore the choice is clear. This Zurich production, and especially the resultant performance, is in a class of its own. I have now enjoyed this disc several times with increasing pleasure on every occasion and can fully endorse the enthusiasm of the audience present at the time of the recording. This is an outstanding disc and should give most purchasers enormous and continuing satisfaction over many years. There are no reservations to be made in my opinion and I would unhesitatingly suggest that this is a clear 5 star winning disc.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glittering and starry production updated for our time, 15 Jun. 2010
By 
This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I bought this romantic comedy Operetta DVD to cheer and hopefully delight a fan of the musical pieces in concert and it turned out to be something very special indeed. I am happy to confirm the judgment of the reviews to date. This is a beautifully staged production with handsome baritone Rod Gilfry as Count Danilo of Pontevedro and the lovely Dagmar Schellenberger as his lost love the widow Hanna Glawari in the lead roles. There is the additional luxurious casting of Piotr Beczala as Camille cie Rosillon and Ute Gfrerer as Ambassador's wife Valencienne. In addition to her superb singing and acting Ute Gfrerer dances, there is a french cabaret at the party with "Maxim's" can-can dancers performing a long Can-Can the star of which is Valencienne, this is great fun.
A recent item on Radio 3's Opera season praised this operetta as the best of all the genre and one critic picked out the charming Vilja song where Hanna shows us her traditional folk roots in particular as her favourite of all.
Rod Gilfry is shortly to appear at the BBC proms on 22 August 2010 in a John Wilson 'Rogers and Hammerstein Musicals' special, hopefully to be broadcast on BBC4 like the MGM one last year. After a distinguished career in opera and now causing a sensation in South Pacific in the US I predict that Rod Gilfry will become a music star favourite here. If you only buy one Operetta, buy this, it has so many 'hits' in the score!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pipped to the post by the San Francisco version - but still very good!, 12 Nov. 2010
By 
Nigel Mc (The Chilterns) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I have 2 versions of the Merry Widow and having seen both several times I have decided to edit my original review to take account of the repeated viewings. Originally, I preferred this version over the San Francisco Opera House version which is sung in English, albeit without the option of sub-titles in English! Make no mistake, both versions are highly recommended but I now prefer the English version which is also available in Blu-ray. The quality of the latter is absolutely fabulous with a pin sharp picture which shows off the wonderful costumes to such good effect.

The singing and acting in both versions is truly excellent and and there are some good comic touches. However, the final act seals it for me with the winner being the San Francisco production. That version boasts a stunning dance sequence and the comic interpretation is also more enjoyable.

But it is a close call and if you buy this version you will not be disappointed. Rod Gilfrey is superb and the Zurich Opera House Orchestra and Choir under Franz Welser-Most give a lively and very enjoyable performance.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff, 15 Mar. 2010
By 
Satish Kamath (India) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I was delighted with this DVD. There was not ONE available of good quality sung in German with any class till now. Most DVDs in the Market are sung in English that fail to deliver the actual essence of this operetta.
In this one, there are a few flaws, but they can be overlooked. Schellenberger is not Elizabeth Shwartzkopf BUT, gives a great and a satisfying performance. Her voice does not really penetrate as much as it should and sounds a bit subdued much of the time. Not her fault, the recording guys need to be taken to task. Gilfry as Danilo comes through quite well, and is absolutely suited for the part. I have no hesitation in comparing him with Eberhart Wachter. Conducting is excellent, although I cant say the same for the recording, which does not strike a great balance between the singers and the orchestra. Rossillon comes through beautifully, crisp and clear.
The can-can at the end of it is a little longer than I expected, but being a live performance, it is justified and quite enjoyable.
Valencienne (Ute Gfrerer) actually steals the show both visually and otherwise.
I have a strange suspicion that the guys who were in charge of the subtitling were French ingrained with a genetic animosity towards English. The conversation in French (not a part of the original liberetto for sure), is left alone which is quite irritating - it could well have been Sanskrit or Latin for a person like me who does not know either and some others are pretty clumsy (Especially Danilo's laugh which is translated as a 'smile' thrice) which makes me smile at the blotched job.
At the end of the performance, it felt nice, warm and satisfying, which is what I would demand of a great performance.
I have no hesitation in giving this a 5 star...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb Merry Widow, 18 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I bought this as part of a box set(with Die Fledermaus and La Belle Helene) at the very good price fromAmazon of £21.95.
The singing ranges from good to very good, the staging and costumes are excellent, and, something which can be overlooked, some of the younger principals, both male and female, are very good-looking, which makes the romantic attachments more credible. The pacing and playing under Welser-Most is good too. Despite having to rely on the subtitles, I also found the dialogue, especially involving the Njegus of Herbert Prikopa, very amusing
What makes the product outstanding, however, is the acting, especially of Dagmar Schellenberger as the Widow, and Rodney Gilfry as Danilo, who portray the characters superbly, with a wonderful range of facial expression.
Add on the wonderful dance scene at Maxime's, and a tremendous sense of enjoyment on stage. This must be one of the most enjoyable opera/operetta productions I have seen.
Douglas Hamilton
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5.0 out of 5 stars Die Lustige Witwe DVD, 6 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is an excellent rendition of The Merry Widow. Congratulations should go to the choreographer, Giorgio Madia. His is a modern approach to delivery, where the Characters get to sing to each other and not to the audience. This results in a more polished, natural and spontaneous performance.
Dagmar Schellenberger is not only a beautiful girl, but also a beautiful singer. Her performance in the Seefestspiele Morbisch production of Grafin Mariza is equally compelling. The American Tenor Rod Gilfrey has a commanding voice and admirably suited to his role.
A good all round performance supported by quality singers and actors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TOP CLASS!!!, 23 April 2013
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
An absolutely first class performance. The acting, singing and, of course, the music, were all superb.
I bought my first version of The Merry Widow, on a vinyl record LP and the whole record was sung in German. The sleeve of the record contained the words of each piece of music, also in German. This is one of the reasons that I particularly like this production of the operetta.
I think that something is lost when music is performed in English when the original work was produced in another language.
I would commend this version of The Merry Widow to anyone who is considering it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable to watch, 7 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Great on-screen chemistry between the two principals - just a pity some of the singing wasn't the best. And some of the sub-titles were a bit odd.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Merry Widow DVD - Dagmar Schellenberger, 12 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This a lovely recording, well staged.
I bought it for a friend's Christmas present.
I allready have one for myself.
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Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005]
Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] [2005] by Dagmar Schellenberger (DVD - 2005)
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