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Author: Jill Kimball

Eklund Opera season opens with jazzy, Parisian ‘Merry Widow’

Lehár’s hit opera is a feast of hummable tunes, ball gowns and laugh-out-loud fun.

Think opera is just a bunch of bad actors standing around warbling depressing lyrics in a foreign language for four hours? Think again.

In Eklund Opera Program Director Leigh Holman’s opinion, “park and bark”—the staging technique, or lack thereof, described above—should be illegal on every opera stage.

“If you have never been to an opera and are afraid you’ll just see people frozen still shouting at you, rest assured, you’ll see none of that here,” Holman says.

With this fall’s production of “The Merry Widow,” a whimsical Parisian romp written by Franz Lehár in 1905, Holman is out to prove just how enjoyable opera can be. “The Merry Widow” runs Oct. 27-29 in Macky Auditorium.

Yes, she says, it’s sung in a foreign language. But it’s also full of hummable melodies, can-can skirts, flirting and fun.

“You’ll see beautiful gowns and beautiful people, and you’ll laugh,” Holman says.”The music is tuneful—so tuneful you might even want to sing along.”

“The Merry Widow” takes place at a gala reception in Paris, where an ambassador plans to save his poverty-stricken kingdom by sending one of his noblemen to court a fabulously wealthy woman. Like any romantic comedy worth its salt, it’s a masterpiece of mix-ups, meet-cutes and, ultimately, marriage.

Holman says Eklund Opera’s setting stays true to the original with sets inspired by Maxim’s, a famous Art Nouveau nightclub frequented by titans of the art world at the turn of the century, including Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Lehár himself.

“There will be all these beautiful details and pops of red, just like at Maxim’s,” Holman says.

While the lively, light-hearted opera is a perfect introduction to the genre for newcomers, Holman says it’s equally enjoyable for die-hards.

“Viennese operetta buffs are similar to Gilbert and Sullivan buffs—they know the piece, the music and the humor,” Holman says. “They keep coming back to enjoy this piece over and over again, as true enthusiasts do.”