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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous 'Widow' in English from the San Francisco Opera
This DVD from the 2001 San Francisco Opera has so many things going for it that the only tiny fault I can find with it is that it doesn't have English subtitles (in fact, the only optional subtitles are in Spanish!). One can understand 80% of what is said and sung, but one wants to understand every word of it!
The mise en scene is enormously attractive. It was the...
Published on 23 Nov 2003 by J Scott Morrison

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Merry Widow ( Die Lustige Witwe )
I understand that this is a 2001 made for television performance, which has been latterly transferred to Blu-ray. It is indeed a wonderfully rich piece of musical theatre - and in particular the performances of Yvonne Kenny (The Merry Widow) and Bo Skovhus (Count Danilovitch) are truly spectacular.
Unfortunately, the sound track on the Blu-ray appears to be out of...
Published on 12 Sep 2010 by Plato


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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous 'Widow' in English from the San Francisco Opera, 23 Nov 2003
By 
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
This DVD from the 2001 San Francisco Opera has so many things going for it that the only tiny fault I can find with it is that it doesn't have English subtitles (in fact, the only optional subtitles are in Spanish!). One can understand 80% of what is said and sung, but one wants to understand every word of it!
The mise en scene is enormously attractive. It was the last production done by Lotfi Mansouri, the SFO's long-time general director, and he is quoted as saying he wanted to go out in style. He certainly succeeded. The sets by Michael Yeargan are gorgeous art nouveau scenes that make you believe you are in fin de siecle Paris. Perfect. Mansouri's stage business is funny and engaging. It appears that no cost was spared in the preparation of Thierry Bosquet's opulent costumes.
The principal singers couldn't be better. Yvonne Kenny brings a lovely voice, a glamorous stage presence and a subtle characterization to the part of Anna Glawari, the merry widow. Bo Skovhus, the handsome Danish baritone, is known for his ringing voice, but it isn't so well-known that he is a clever comic actor who can still make a believable lover of Danilo. He makes us glad we can accompany him to Maxime's. Angelika Kirchschlager, with that stunning mezzo voice and looks to match, is a bewitchingly flirtatious Valencienne. Njegus, sung and acted like a demented Nathan Lane by Elijah Chester, brings the house down with his interpolated 'Quite Parisian,' a number not in the original production but later added by Lehar. All the other named roles are well-taken and too numerous to single out. There is a charming and elaborate added third-act ballet, commissioned by Mansouri to non-'Merry Widow' music by Lehar, choreographed by Lawrence Pech. Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein supplied witty new dialog. The lilting musical direction is by that expert at 'light' music, Cincinnati's Erich Kunzel.
Extras include interviews with the principals, including Mansouri, that add to the background of this particular production. There is also a synopsis on the DVD (as well as in the handsome included booklet).
This DVD makes the 1990 Joan Sutherland/Richard Bonynge/Opera Australia DVD look tired indeed, and it is much better sung. Yes, this is easily the version to have.
My strongest recommendation.
Scott Morrison
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest of Viennese operettas in an excellent presentation, 5 Jun 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
Count Danilo Danilovitch has a simple philosophy, "Make love often; become engaged seldom; and marry never." When Anna Glawari, now a rich widow, comes back into his life Danilo will be forced to rethink things. This wonderful Franz Lehar piece was one of the last great examples of Viennese operetta. It was produced in 1905; nine years later the world came to an end for this kind of belle époque sophistication.

The story is as simple as the music is glorious. Danilo and Anna had been lovers once. He was of Pontenegrian nobility and she was a commoner. His uncle forbad a marriage. Danilo now has become a prized diplomat at his country's embassy in Paris, as well as a gifted lecher and drunkard. Anna simply married an older and very rich man who had the courtesy to die shortly afterwards. Now, Anna has come to Paris and every impoverished noble and rake, often the same thing, are eager to woo her for her money. Pontenegro, however, has fallen on hard economic times. The country is almost bankrupt. So the Pontenegrian ambassador has ordered Danilo to woo and wed Anna so that her riches can be deposited with the state. Got that? Now forget it. The only thing we need to know is that Danilo, without money, will not marry Anna for hers...and that they still love each other. And that we are in Paris.

This 2001 production by the San Francisco Opera is as sumptuous and light as a whipped cream meringue. The sets are beautiful. The costumes are gorgeous, all white-ties-and-tails for the men and lush ball gowns for the women. The actors are attractive and, most importantly, they can sing. Yvonne Kenny who plays Anna is not simply attractive, she can manage to look lovely, lovingly and a bit skeptical all at the same time. Bo Skovhus who plays Danilo is a tall, handsome Dane with a good deal of stage presence. The operetta was staged by Lofti Mansouri with a light touch and appropriate stage business. The Merry Widow is effervescent, worldly and gay. It gives us a time when fidelity was considered as old-fashioned as dumplings, when husbands had their mistresses and wives their paramours, and they all went to Maxim's. Lehar's greatest score brings all this together with music that is deeply romantic and as bubbly as an innocent, or not too innocent, first romance. Like so many operas and operettas which were written for a different type of audience in a different kind of world, the story-line and dialogue cannot always disguise the sound of old, creaking joints. Two things make this aging irrelevant to our pleasure.

First, of course, is Lehar's music. We may not always know the titles, but the melodies, for example, to "I'm Off to Chez Maxim's," "Vilia," "Girls, Girls, Girls" and the Merry Widow waltz are almost instantly recognizable more than a hundred years after they were first heard. Second, is the person of Anna Glawari. She is a woman of the world, wise in the ways of men, love and finance. At a time when married women had few rights and few resources they could call their own, Anna knows what she's doing. She loves Danilo and knows he loves her. She also recognizes his pride that will not permit him to marry for money, or even the appearance of this. Anna's solution is clever, loving and practical. She let's Danilo discover a new philosophy, "Make love often; become engaged seldom; and marry once for life and forever."

This DVD is a filmed performance, but TV director Gary Halvorsun has combined fluid medium shots and close-ups to give us a dynamic presentation. There are no irritating cutaways to the audience. The DVD transfer is excellent, well lit, clear and with great color. Extras include a plot synopsis, a discussion of the opera with cast members and a booklet in the DVD case.

You'd have to have a pocketful of pebbles instead of a heart not to at least enjoy Lehar's score. Romantic? Well, so's sipping Tokay at Maxim's with the woman you love...I mean your wife...I mean...well, you know what I mean.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Merry Widow. Perfect escapism, 3 Jun 2006
By 
G. D. Russell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
This is a spectacular and lavish production of Franz Lehar's famous operetta, 'The Merry Widow' by San Francisco Opera, directed by Lotfi Mansouri - his final production before he retired. He certainly left on a high note, so to speak.

The costumes are spectacular and expensive. The sets are effectively simple with excellent yet unobtrusive lighting. The camera work is perfect, always in the right place at the right time and with excellent close up shots.
The orchestra plays vivaciously throughout though there is a slight tendency, I feel, occasionally to 'rush' the singers, but they cope well regardless.
The Glawari garden scene is ethereal and the ambience of Maxim's has been captured perfectly. The specially commissioned new ballet at the start of Act 3 is a colourful and musical delight. One really has to watch this DVD a few times to fully appreciate all the work and talent that has gone into the making of it.

My (2003) copy has translations - in French, German, Spanish and Italian. It is therefore possible to fill in the few English words one cannot make out at first in the dialogue and provide a good excuse to watch the DVD again...

The American tenor, Gregory Turay, plays Camille with sensitivity. The other three leading parts are played by `imported' opera singers: talented and confident Australian soprano Yvonne Kenny (Anna Glawari), the delightful, vivacious and superb Austrian mezzo-soprano, Angelika Kirchschlager (Valencienne) and tall, handsome Danish baritone, Bo Skovhus (Prince Danilo Danilovitch) with his wonderfully mellifluous yet powerful voice (the best baritone I have ever heard).
The music is as catchy and beautiful as ever - the `Ladies Choice' sequence is particularly uplifting.
Also included on the DVD is a good synopsis and 'Impressions' - interviews with the four leading cast members and Lotfi Mansouri.

When my copy wears out, I will not hesitate to buy another. Five stars for over 2 1/2 hours of wonderful, romantic and tuneful pure escapism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Merry Widow that makes a merry audience., 17 Jan 2011
By 
Frank Belsey (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow (Live Recording From War Memorial Opera House San Francisco 2001) [Blu-ray] [2010] (Blu-ray)
Have just shown this blueray disc performance to a small gathering of friends, via a projector onto a 10foot wide screen, with stunning results Most of the audience are opera and ballet fans, and they all without exception thought this to be a wonderful, remarkable, exciting, production that gives 100percent feel good experience.
It is good to have it in English, as with so much dialogue it becomes difficult to keep up with swiftly changing subtitles. Those of us of a certain age, even if not opera or operetta fans know well these wondeful songs, and will get great joy watching this Merry Widow.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Merry Widow ( Die Lustige Witwe ), 12 Sep 2010
This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow (Live Recording From War Memorial Opera House San Francisco 2001) [Blu-ray] [2010] (Blu-ray)
I understand that this is a 2001 made for television performance, which has been latterly transferred to Blu-ray. It is indeed a wonderfully rich piece of musical theatre - and in particular the performances of Yvonne Kenny (The Merry Widow) and Bo Skovhus (Count Danilovitch) are truly spectacular.
Unfortunately, the sound track on the Blu-ray appears to be out of synchronization with the video picture by several milliseconds, and on numerous occasions actors appear to be almost miming. This observation is not just subjective, as others have also noticed this apparent problem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as idiomatic as the Welser-Most version, 16 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow (Live Recording From War Memorial Opera House San Francisco 2001) [Blu-ray] [2010] (Blu-ray)
I initially owned this San Francisco version of the Merry Widow initially as a DVD and then as this Blu-ray and the technical side of that production is the best - just.

However, for me, I find Yvonne Kenny a problem. Her voice is no longer quite up to the part as she is now an older woman with quite a lot of the vibrato one can associate with that age. Far more worryingly however, is the apparent lack of communication between herself and those she is singing or talking to. She focusses on delivering to the audience instead.

The rest of the cast do not have either of these problems and it should be noted that several reviewers have not shown concern about that either. I also find that much of the dialogue is over-worked - just to make sure that we get the jokes / meaning. Heavy going I have found.

However, for me, the answer lies in the Welser-Most performance which features a younger and altogether more vibrant Merry Widow - really merry and therefore totally believable. She is also a lot younger with a stronger voice bubling with genuine fun. There is a strong level of communication between herself and Gilfry who is also excellent and an excellent actor as well as being an excellent singer. The whole thing is conducted with flair by Welser-Most who is obviously well inside this music. The recording is fine in both surround sound and as camera work. The production is in German which allows for far more fluency of the dialogue.

All my doubts about this San Francisco version have been confirmed by the superiority of the Welser-Most version. I finally sold my San Fransisco Blu-ray versions having replaced them with Welser-Most - and only on DVD and with sub titles. For me, a much better buy and far more enjoyable in almost every way.

If possible I would suggest that those considering a purchase should try and compare before you buy if you can. There are considerable differences between these two discs and personal preferences will play a strong part in making a final choice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 9 Aug 2008
By 
P. C. Ensor (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
There's some inspired casting in this performance which gives the show a wonderful "feel good" factor. Plenty of endorphins are generated for days afterwards. This is a performance to boost one's spirits if you are feeling a little jaded with life. The excellent choreography and sumptuous costumes add to this "feel good" factor as does the first class orchestra.
The surround sound gives a tremendous sense of realism, as if one were in the audience, and brings out with great clarity the bass notes and individual instruments, all adding to the enjoyment.

There are no modern production gimmicks here which have ruined so many contemporary opera performances(eg Parsifal at Bayreuth.)

I wish that some Lionel Monckton musicals of the same vintage, such as The Arcadians, The Country Girl,etc, could be revived and put on DVD with the same enthusiasm and success.

Lofti Mansouri certainly went out on a final production of great verve,highly professional,enjoyable and satisfying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, 9 Feb 2008
By 
M. Tucker (Bristol, 0 United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
A very rewarding French Edwardian experience. The first time I have ever seen a production tho I know the music well. Elegant, colourful, and provoking. This is a production that takes you into the world of love, greed, temptation, and with a nice touch of comedy - and love finally wins out. Who would have it any other way?
I just wish I had been in the audience! I cannot recommend it enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best production of the best operetta, 23 Jan 2008
By 
Dr. Peter Fergusson (UK and France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
What more can I say .. the previous reviewers have already said it so well .. and I can think of no more superlatives. I rate it as one of my all-time favourites, and so more accessible as it is sung in English. I play it more than any other music DVD, or any other DVD for that matter. Echoing another reviewer, when my copy wears out I shan't hesitate to buy another. Congratulations to all those involved in the production. I can't rate it more highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect, 12 Jan 2008
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lehar: The Merry Widow [DVD] (DVD)
The Merry Widow is not an easy show to produce. With intervals its almost 4 hours long - quite a challenge. Yes it has some wondeful numbers but it also has some long-winded and very dated dialogue too. The San Francisco Opera nearly achieves perfection with this production and despite a worrying dialogue-bound first half hour, once the production takes off it goes from strength to strength.Yvonne Kenny gives a good performance but it is her male lead who steals the show and brings to it the passion and vulnerability absolutely essential if it is to work. An excellent supporting cast, a good set,and a new ballet, are all icing on the cake.The dvd has excellent picture quality and sound. However it could have benefitted from English subtites as the generally excellent diction is not always comprehensible. Buy and enjoy but stick with it through that rather "clunky" first half hour!
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