Vancouver Opera’s production of The Merry Widow opens Oct. 20. (photo by John Grigaitis)
“I am thrilled that The Merry Widow will open our 58th season,” Kim Gaynor told the Independent. “The Merry Widow has only been produced twice before in the history of Vancouver Opera. We have a terrific cast, and director Kelly Robinson also directed our smash-hit Evita in 2016.”
Gaynor, a member of the Jewish community, is general director of Vancouver Opera.
“Franz Lehár, the composer of The Merry Widow, always used Jewish librettists for his operas – in this case, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein – although he was Roman Catholic,” she noted. “The cultural milieu in early 20th-century Vienna was made up of a significant Jewish contingent. And Lehár’s wife, Sophie (née Paschkis), was Jewish before her conversion to Catholicism upon marriage, which was a common practice at the time in the case of a ‘mixed’ marriage.”
Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die Lustige Witwe), a comedic operetta, is set in Paris at the turn of the last century. In the Vancouver Opera production, soprano Lucia Cesaroni will be making her role debut with the VO as the wealthy widow, Hanna Glawari, who tries to win the heart of Count Danilo, played by tenor John Cudia.
In the past year, notes the show’s promotional material, Cesaroni “also debuted with acclaim in both soprano roles of La Bohème, as Mimi with Pacific Opera Victoria and Musetta with l’Opéra de Montreal.” She last performed with the VO in West Side Story in 2011.
Cudia has performed in two recent VO productions: as Cassio in Verdi’s Otello (2017) and Juan Peron in Evita (2016). Among his credits, he is the first and only actor to have performed both as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway.
The VO production of The Merry Widow plays Oct. 20, 25 and 27, 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 28, 2 p.m., at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets range in price from $50 to $175 and are available from the VO at 604-683-0222 or vancouveropera.ca.