THE MERRY WIDOW
Music by Franz Lehár
Libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein
Sung mainly in English, with projected translations.
As heady as champagne, Franz Lehár’s classic operetta The Merry Widow draws us into the opulent Paris of the legendary Maxim’s in this first-ever BLO production. Featuring a lush design and a new book by director Lillian Groag, The Merry Widow is set in 1913 Paris in the last moments before the glittering City of Light would be overshadowed by war—a party at the end of the world.
Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre
Performed in three acts with one intermission after Act I. Performance running time approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Sung in German, English, French, Italian, Russian, and Serbian with projected translations.
Pre-Performance Talks are given one hour before each performance and are free to all ticket holders.
Conductor Alexander Joel
Stage Director Lillian Groag
Set Designer John Conklin
Costume Designer Gail Buckley
Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel
Choreographer Kyle Lang
Wig And Makeup Designer Jason Allen
Surtitle Designer John Conklin
Erin Wall as Hanna Glawari
Roger Honeywell as Count Danilo
John Tessier as Camille de Rosillon
Andrew Wilkowske as Baron Zeta
Chelsea Basler as Valencienne
Jesse Blumberg as Njegus
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS
New Year’s Eve, 1913. Europe feverishly dances on the edge…
At the Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris, ambassador Baron Zeta is desperately trying to marry off the American heiress, Hanna Glawari, the recent widow of the head of Pontevedrian State Bank, to a native son so that her inheritance can remain in the country and forestall an impending government bankruptcy. For this delicate task, he lights upon Count Danilo, first secretary at the Embassy and a somewhat reckless bon vivant. But he and Hanna have a past…
Years before, when Danilo was in New York on a diplomatic mission and Hanna was a young showgirl in the Ziegfield Follies, they had an intense affair. It was quickly terminated when his aristocratic family heard about this most unsuitable liaison, leaving Hanna brokenhearted and furious. So their potential reunion is complicated by feelings of guilt, conflict, and an underlying, undeniable attraction.
Meanwhile, Valencienne, Baron Zeta’s young wife, is torn between her own attraction to the French military attaché, Camille (who ardently pursues her), and her desire to be “a respectable wife.” The Embassy is full of other erotic intrigues, complications, misunderstandings (including a scandalous incident concerning a secret rendezvous in the Embassy garden). Finally, Danilo and Hanna can no longer deny their love and are passionately reunited—and all must face the New Year of 1914 with its yearned-for hopes—and its threats, perhaps now no longer avoidable.
Erin Wall makes her Boston opera premiere with BLO’s The Merry Widow. Recent highlights include Mahler’s 8th symphony under the direction of Andris Nelsons at the Tanglewood 75th anniversary celebration, the title role in Arabella and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream—both at the Metropolitan Opera—and Elgar’s oratorio The Kingdom on the first night of the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. She has sung leading roles in many of the world’s great opera houses, including La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and appears in concert with leading conductors and symphony orchestras worldwide. Erin’s recording of Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis was released in 2014 to critical acclaim and was followed by tour performances in the Concertgebouw and the Edinburgh Festival.
Roger Honeywell makes his Boston Lyric Opera debut as Count Danilo, a role he reprises after performing it at Michigan Opera Theatre in the 2014/15 Season. Mr. Honeywell recently performed with the Théâtre du Châtelet as Torasso in Sondheim’s Passion and in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in the role of Veasey with the Santa Fe Opera. He also returned to Calgary as Nikolaus Sprink for the Canadian premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Vancouver Opera. This July, he will appear as Archbishop Roche in the world premiere of John Estacio’s Ours with Opera on the Avalon in Newfoundland, Canada, and he will return to BLO for the 2016/17 Season in September as Don José in Carmen.
CAMILLE DE ROSILLON
John Tessier returns to BLO as Camille de Rosillon. Recently, Mr. Tessier performed as Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles and as Leicester in Maria Stuarda (Seattle Opera). As a concert soloist, he has sung the Mozart Requiem with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Händel’s Messiah with Robert Porco and the Cleveland Orchestra, and Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio with Ty Patterson conducting the Ottawa Singers. At BLO, Mr. Tessier received rave reviews as Count Almaviva in the 2012 production of The Barber of Seville, and was last seen in BLO’s 2014 production of I Puritani. He has worked with many of the most notable conductors of our day including David Robertson, Leonard Slatkin, Plácido Domingo, John Nelson, Franz Welser-Möst, Emmanuelle Haïm, Charles Dutoit, Donald Runnicles, Robert Spano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Bernard Labadie.
Chelsea Basler is a BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumna and the 2014 recipient of the Company’s Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence. Her extensive BLO credits include Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Glasha in Kátya Kabanová, Isolt the Fair in The Love Potion, Flora Bervoix in La Traviata, and more. Ms. Basler recently debuted the role of Sara in the world premiere of Cold Mountain with Santa Fe Opera, played Josephine in HMS Pinafore (Opera Saratoga), and Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men (Sarasota Opera). Other recital and oratorio credits include a recital at the National Opera Center in New York City and Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. She will perform the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Saratoga this summer.
BARON MIRKO ZETA
Known for his versatility, Andrew Wilkowske was last seen at BLO as Emperor Overall in the 2011 critically-acclaimed Opera Annex production of The Emperor of Atlantis. Recently, Mr. Wilkowske was showcased in Verdi’s King for a Day as La Rocca at Glimmerglass Festival. His other opera credits include Papageno in The Magic Flute with Minnesota Opera and Komische Oper Berlin; and Ponchel in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night with Lyric Opera Kansas City, Cincinnati Opera, and Opera Philadelphia, a role he created in 2011 with Minnesota Opera. His concert highlights include the rock recital Guns N’ Rosenkavalier with the 5 Boroughs Music Festival and Glimmerglass Festival, a project he created with composer John Glover.
DAVID MCFERRIN Baritone
David McFerrin is a BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumnus who has appeared in numerous Company productions, including The Love Potion, Lizzie Borden, Clemency, Madama Butterfly, Kátya Kabanová, and Agrippina. This Season, he appeared with BLO as the Officer in In the Penal Colony and Johann in Werther. His other opera credits include Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and the Rossini Festival in Wildbad, Germany. As a concert soloist, Mr. McFerrin has sung with Gustavo Dudamel and the Israel Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, with the early music ensemble TENET at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, and with the Boston Pops. Upcoming concert highlights include performances at the Carmel Bach Festival and with the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston and New York.
RAOUL DE ST. BRIOCHE
Jon Jurgens is a BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist who has established himself as a versatile young talent with a wide range of repertoire. Most recently, he performed the title role in The Picture of Dorian Gray (Opera Fayetteville) and the roles of Rodolfo in La Bohème (Opera Raw) and Don Jose in Carmen (Opera Neo). As a studio artist with Sarasota Opera, he has also sung the roles of Curley in Of
Mice and Men, Borsa in Rigoletto and has covered Edoardo in Un Giorno di Regno and the Duke in Rigoletto. Mr. Jurgens was highly acclaimed as Tristan in BLO’s 2014 production of The Love Potion, and earlier that year made his Company debut as Gastone in La Traviata. He was most recently seen as Schmidt in BLO’s Werther.
Mr. Blumberg has appeared in numerous operatic roles including Papageno in The Magic Flute (Minnesota Opera), Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette (Kentucky Opera), The Count in Le Nozze di Figaro (Fargo-Moorhead Opera), Charlie in Three Decembers (Atlanta Opera), Poliferno in Niobe, Regina di Tebe (Boston Early Music Festival), and Harlekin in the Boston Lyric Opera production of Ariadne auf Naxos. On the concert stage, Mr. Blumberg has performed recitals with the New York Festival of Song and Marilyn Horne Foundation and is a frequent soloist with American Bach Soloists, Berkshire Choral Festival, Boston Baroque, and Apollo’s Fire. Jesse is also the founder of Five Boroughs Music Festival in New York City.
Alex Portenko makes his BLO debut as Kivowitz in The Merry Widow. He is originally from Uzbekistan and received his BFA in theatre arts from Salem State University. His recent Boston-area credits include O Happy Port! and Six Degrees of Separation (Bad Habit Productions) and The Normal Heart (Salem Theatre Company). He is an alumnus of the First Stage Program with Lyric Stage Company of Boston as an actor and director’s assistant, and has received honors as both an actor and director from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Alexander Joel, who grew up in London and Vienna (where he also studied conducting), makes his North American debut with Merry Widow for Boston Lyric Opera. Operatic productions this season include Carmen at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (he has previously conducted La Traviata and La Bohème and returns for Rigoletto in 2017/2018), Turandot for Deutsche Oper Berlin and Opernhaus Zürich, Don Giovanni in Stockholm, Manon for the Opéra de Marseille and La Traviata at Hamburg Staatsoper and Vienna Volksoper. On the concert stage, his highlights include his symphonic debut with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln. Highlights for 2016/17 include new productions of Manon Lescaut at the Netherlands Opera, Simone Boccanegra at the Flemish opera, and a complete Ring Cycle at the Staastheater Wiesbaden.
Argentinean-born director Lillian Groag returns to BLO with a brand new book for The Merry Widow, having previously directed Madama Butterfly (2013), Idomeneo (2010) and Agrippina for the Company. Recent credits include The Girl of the Golden West at Opera Omaha, War Music at American Conservatory Theater, and The Marriage of Figaro and Where Angels Fear to Tread at Opera San Jose and Virginia Opera. She is one of the playwrights involved in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s project Play on!, 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. She has directed opera and theatre across the country and in New York and is a published playwright, produced throughout North America, Europe and Japan. As an actress, she has performed in regional theatres, and on and off Broadway. She is an Associate Artist at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
John Conklin has designed sets on and off -Broadway, at the Kennedy Center, and for opera companies around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, Bastille Opera in Paris, the Royal Opera and the opera houses of Munich, Amsterdam, and Bologna, among others. Locally, his work has been seen in Boston Lyric Opera’s I Puritani (2014), The Magic Flute (2013), Madama Butterfly (2012), and Macbeth (2011), as well as at the American Repertory Theatre and Boston Ballet. Additionally, Mr. Conklin works to develop lecture series and community events for BLO that enrich the audience experience and strengthen the presence of opera in Boston’s arts community. He is on the faculty at New York University’s Tisch School and was a recipient of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors.
GAIL ASTRID BUCKLEY
Boston-based costume designer Gail Astrid Buckley has worked with BLO for nearly 20 years in a number of capacities, and The Merry Widow marks her debut as solo costume designer. Her recent work includes The Christmas Carol at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Casa Valentina at SpeakEasy Stage Company, My Fair Lady at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, and Sweet and Sad at Gloucester Stage Company. Ms. Buckley has earned two “Small Theater: Best Costume Design” awards from The Independent Reviewers of New England and two Elliot Norton Awards for best costume design and for group design for The Adding Machine at SpeakEasy Stage.
Robert Wierzel returns to Boston Lyric Opera where his latest production with the Company was The Love Potion. He has worked with artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in art, opera, theatre, and dance on stages throughout the country and abroad. His opera credits include productions with the companies of Paris Palais-Garnier, Tokyo, Toronto, NYCO, Glimmerglass, Chicago Lyric, Washington DC, and Seattle, among many others. His theatre work has been seen at many major companies throughout the country, as well as on and off Broadway, including Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill, staring Audra McDonald, and the Broadway musical Fela! (Tony Award nomination). Robert has a 31-year history with the director/choreographer Bill T. Jones and the BTJ/AZ Company. Mr. Wierzel is a faculty member of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Kyle Lang’s career includes directing as well as choreographing for many companies in the US and abroad. This season, Mr. Lang has directed La Bohème (Virginia Opera), Don Quixote and the Duchess (Central City Opera), L’Enfant et les Sortileges and Gianni Schicchi (Simpson College). He has also choreographed The Merry Widow with Utah Opera as well as assistant directed Tosca for San Diego Opera. He has performed as a soloist and in the corps de ballet with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, and The Santa Fe Opera, among others.
WIG AND MAKEUP DESIGNER
Jason Allen has been BLO’s Resident Wig and Makeup Designer since 2003. A fixture of the Boston performing arts community, he also works with Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Ballet and many other organizations in Boston and throughout the country.
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA ORCHESTRA
Sandra Kott, Concertmaster
Annie Rabbat, Principal 2nd
Tera Gorsett, Acting Principal
Abigail Cross, Acting Principal
Loewi Lin, Principal
Robert Lynam, Principal
Ona Jonaityte, Acting Principal
Mary Cicconetti, Acting Principal
Jan Halloran, Principal
Donald Bravo, Acting Principal
Brian Nichols, Acting Principal
Greg Whitaker, Acting Principal
Donald Davis, Acting Principal
Nicholas Tolle, Acting Principal
William Manley, Acting Principal
Hyunjung Choi, Acting Principal
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CHORUS
In The Wings
Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera
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Lehár’s The Merry Widow has waltzed around the world for 110 years now. There may not be as many Merry Widow byproducts as there used to be…more »
“[This ‘Merry Widow’] summons our longing for a time when the antics of lovers seemed the most important concern [and] wars were still fought with etiquette and manners.” – The Boston Globe
“Theatrically effective…with delicious irony [and] wonderful clarity [that] gave gravity to the comedy of manners…” – Boston Music Intelligencer
“A perfect example of how to do it right! It is so rare to see lavish, historically accurate production values on the contemporary opera stage….” – Edge Boston
Photos by T Charles Erickson
photos by Melissa Blackall