The Merry Widow

 

THE MERRY WIDOW

BY FRANZ LEHÁR

FEBRUARY 12 (7:30 PM) & 14 (2:00 PM), 2021 at the Valentine Theatre

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! The Merry Widow dances into our hearts with its beautiful melodies and witty storyline. Hanna Glawari is a vastly wealthy young widow from the small and poverty-stricken Balkan province of Pontevedro. Ambassador Baron Zeta is anxious that when Hanna re-marries, it is to a Pontevedrian and not a Frenchman, to keep her money in the country and save them all from ruin. J. Ernest Green conducts this bubbly delight while Jamie Offenbach and James M. Norman bring the light-hearted comedy to life.

Starring as the merry widow is Alyson Cambridge (Toledo Opera’s Carmen) and BGSU voice professor Keith Phares as Count Danilo.

 

Performed in English with English supertitles.

The Merry Widow

By Franz Lehár

Setting: Paris around 1905

Act I: The Petrovenian Embassy

In Paris, Mirko Zeta, ambassador of the Principality of Pontevedro, throws a party, where everyone is awaiting the arrival of Hanna Glawari, a very wealthy widow who has just arrived in the capital. While his wife Valencienne fends off the advances of young Camille Roussillon, the ambassador is concerned with getting Hanna Glawari quickly married to one of his compatriots so as to keep her fortune from leaving Pontevedro, which would bankrupt the country. Count Danilo seems to be the perfect candidate, but he refuses resolutely. In fact, he knows Hanna, whom he was to have married earlier had an aristocratic uncle not objected to such a misalliance. Danilo doesn’t want it thought that he would now marry the young woman for her fortune.

Act II: The Widow’s Garden, the next evening

Hannah throws a party in turn. She sings for her guests the Song of Vilja, a young wood nymph who seduces a hunter. Given Danilo’s repeated refusals, the other gentlemen declare themselves candidates for the marriage. Valencienne is about to give in to the Camille’s insistent flirtations after she joins him in a small pavilion. Her husband has realized what is going on, but when he opens the pavilion, he discovers Hanna, who has had sufficient time to take Valencienne’s place next to Camille. This subterfuge fools the ambassador, who is dismayed by the young widow’s forthcoming marriage to a Frenchman. Danilo, furious, shows his jealousy, thereby informing Hanna of his true feelings.  

Act III: The Widow’s Ballroom

For her reception, Hanna has re-created at home, with songs and pretty girls, the atmosphere of Maxim’s, from which Danilo returns having met no one there. Mirko Zeta receives a catastrophic dispatch informing him that only the young widow’s fortune can save Pontevedro from bankruptcy. He beseeches Danilo, who easily convinces Hanna not to marry Camille. She explains to him the ruse staged in the pavilion. They express their love for one another in the famous duet:“Lippen schweigen(Heure exquise – The Merry Widow Waltz).” Zeta has discovered his wife’s fan in the pavilion; he now asks for a divorce, and he himself asks for Hanna’s hand in marriage. He gives up on this plan as soon as he learns that the widow loses her fortune if she marries. Danilo can finally propose to Hanna unambiguously. He will no longer be able to withdraw his proposal, even when he learns that the widow will lose her fortune …to her new husband !

Alyson Cambridge, Hannah Glawari

Over the past 15 years, Alyson Cambridge has established herself as a leading soprano performing at The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago, London’s Royal Albert Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, and Deutsche Oper Berlin, to name a few. As she continues to grow in both the theatre and classical world, Ms. Cambridge is praised for her “powerful, clear voice” by The New York Times, hailed by critics for her “radiant, vocally assured, dramatically subtle and artistically imaginative” performances (Washington Post), and celebrated for her “sultry and seductive readings” (Opera News). This season, Ms. Cambridge will reprise her role in Broadway’s Rocktopia on tour throughout the U.S. Additionally, Cambridge performed as a soloist in Victory Hall Opera’s production of From the Diary of Sally Hemings, perform the role of Bess (Porgy and Bess)  with National Orchestral Institute/Wolf Trap Opera and Washington National Opera, Julie in Show Boat with Glimmerglass Opera, Coretta Scott King (I Dream) for Opera Carolina, as well as Mother Abbess in Northern Stage’s Sound of Music. Her latest album, “Sisters in Song,” where she is joined with fellow soprano, Nicole Cabell, was released in September of 2018 and will embark on a country wide tour. Last season, Cambridge performed the role of Bess (Porgy & Bess) with Spoleto Festival USA. In recent seasons, Ms. Cambridge joined The Metropolitan Opera for their production of The Merry Widow, which she later performed with Florentine Opera as Hanna Glawari; performed in multiple concerts, including Leading Lady at the Irvine Barclay Center, From the Diary of Sally Hemings at the Church of the Intercession for the acclaimed concert series The Crypt Sessions, Sisters in Song with Lake Forest Symphony, Monticello Overheard with Victory Hall Opera, and a program of American song with the Laguna Beach Music Festival. Ms. Cambridge has appeared with Toledo Opera in their Opera Gala 2020 and in the title role of Carmen.

Keith Phares, Count Danilo Danilovitsch

Opera News hails Keith Phares as a "mainstay of contemporary opera" and "an authentic contemporary-American-opera divo" with "an impressive gallery of finely-drawn character portraits." Highlights from the 19-20 season include a reprise of Elder Tull in Craig Bohmler?s Riders of the Purple Sage with Arizona Opera, and Thomas Nangle in John Estacio's Ours with Opera on the Avalon at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Voice at Bowling Green State University. In recent seasons, he appeared as Dr. Ludwig Binswanger in the premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's Ellen West with Opera Saratoga, Edward Kynaston in Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players with Florentine Opera (recorded live for Naxos), Sam (Trouble in Tahiti) with Lexington Philharmonic; made his debut with Los Angeles Opera in Getty's Scare Pair, Gasparo (Rita) with Chicago Opera Theatre, Ford (Falstaff) with Opera Omaha, and Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) with Opera Maine. Mr. Phares has appeared in leading roles with Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and elsewhere; and in recital with the Marilyn Horne Foundation, WordSong, Illuminarts and LyricFest. An ardent exponent of contemporary American opera, Mr. Phares sang Charlie in the premiere and recording of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers opposite Frederica von Stade with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera, the Father in the premiere and recording of Gregory Spears' Paul's Case with UrbanArias and PROTOTYPE, Elder Tull in the premiere of Craig Bohmler's Riders of the Purple Sage, and the title role in the premiere and live, Grammy-winning recording of Aldridge's Elmer Gantry.

Caroline Miller, Valencienne

Caroline Miller is a “warm soprano [with] emotional bite,” praised as a compelling singer-actor with vocal flexibility and dramatic intensity, who is “especially adept at comedy.” Committed to the interpretation of new operatic works and collaboration with composers, Ms. Miller has premiered the role of Verlena Sue (A Wake or A Wedding) by Richard Pearson Thomas with Encompass New Opera (NYC) and the role of GH (The Passion According to GH) by Lacy Rose, as part of Madou Mines Residency (NYC). Highlights of her operatic work also include: Juliana in Argento's The Aspern Papers, Echo in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Blanche in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites. In the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Miller was a Resident Artist with Toledo Opera, appearing as Gretel (Hansel and Gretel vs the Witch)She also sang the Lady-In-Waiting and First Witch in Monk Tarrots' new production of Verdi's Macbeth. Her professional musical career began in the world of operetta, and it continues to be an important part of her repertoire. A frequent performer with Ohio Light Opera, Ms. Miller has presented the roles of Phyllis in Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe, Bellabruna in Romberg's Blossom Time and Masha in Oscar Strauss's The Chocolate Solider. Through her work with Ohio Light Opera, she appears on the only contemporary professional recording of Romberg's Blossom Time, produced by Albany Records. Opera News lauded her portrayal of Bellabruna, writing “Miller projects all the confident insouciance of a pampered prima donna.”

Drake Dantzler, Camille de Rosillon

Drake Dantzler is a frequent performer of opera, oratorio, and song. Mr. Dantzler was hailed in Opera News as “a real find: he has a voice of molten silver, immaculate musicianship and an expressive stage persona.” Mr. Dantzler has recently appeared as Nanki-Poo in The Mikado with Opera Grand Rapids and Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis, where he was praised for his “dashing and earnest” performance and his “soaring high notes.” Mr. Dantzler has also been seen with the Opera Theater of the Rockies as Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus) and as Gérard (Lakmé) and with Arbor Opera Theater as Rodolfo (La bohème) and Alfredo (La Traviata), where Encore Michigan lauded “Drake Dantzler's tenor vocals were marvelous, bright and evocative." Other opera credits include Rodolfo, as well as Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Live@First concert series, leading roles with the Ohio Light Opera in Kismet, The Count of Luxembourg, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and the Duke of Dunstable in Patience, which was recorded and released on Albany Records. Mr. Dantzler has also appeared with Central City Opera, Sarasota Opera, the Breckenridge Music Festival, Des Moines Metro, Opera Iowa, and The Austin Lyric Opera among others. Mr. Dantzler is an associate professor at Oakland University, where he directs the opera program. Mr. Dantzler has been a guest artist and teacher at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, the Vancouver International Song Institute, and the Toledo Opera Summer Camp.

Jamie Offenbach, Baron Zeta and Co-director

Jamie Offenbach is an American Bass whose defining character portrayals of signature roles have earned him a classical music career spanning more than thirty years. He is a frequent guest artist with companies throughout North America, Europe, and China. Mr. Offenbach began his career as a dancer and musical theater performer before starting his vocal studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa, New York University, and the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, while furthering his studies with apprenticeships at Santa Fe Opera, Colorado Opera, and Los Angeles Opera. His flexibility as an artist enables a wide range of repertoire with offerings from Antonio in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and Benoit/Alcindoro (La bohème), to his signature roles as Don Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia), and Mephistopheles (Faust) as examples. A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Mr. Offenbach is the Artistic Advisor and frequent guest artist with Hawaii Opera Theatre. He can be heard on the 2012 Double Grammy Awarded Naxos label recording of Elmer Gantry, and Angel Record's recording of Gershwin's Blue Monday. Mr. Offenbach last appeared with Toledo Opera as Mephistopheles in the 2014 production of Faust. This production of The Merry Widow marks his main stage co-directorial company debut.

J. Ernest Green, conductor

J. Ernest Green, often a frequent collaborator with the late Marvin Hamlisch, recently conducted at Wolf Trap. Maestro Green is the principal conductor at the McClean Symphony and a Cover Conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he has worked with such artists as Metropolitan Opera star Denyce Graves, Sir James Galway, Pinchas Zuckerman and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Maestro Green also recently conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra. Maestro Green is also the Artistic Director of Live Arts Maryland and the Music Director of the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and Annapolis Chorale. From 1995-98, he was the Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Aria Guild and has served as the Conductor for the Teatro Lirico d’Europa in Paris. Mr. Green was the Music Director for the Young Victorian Theatre Company from 1985-2008. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1993 and in 1986 made his international debut conducting performances with the Fundacão Orquestra Sinfonica de Brazil, Associacão Opera de Brasilia, and the Orquestra Jovem de Brasilia. From 2004-2007, Mr. Green served as the Music Director of the Mozart Festival Opera, where he led productions of Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro, The Magic Flute, La Traviata, and Il barbiere di Siviglia.

James M. Norman, Co-director

James Norman has been active in the Northwest Ohio arts community for many years.  In his 30+ years in the business, Mr. Norman has directed, costumed, and stage-managed plays, musicals, and operas. Last year, he directed Trial By Jury and Scalia/Ginsburg. For the Opera On Wheels education program of Toledo Opera, he has designed and directed Hansel and Gretel vs. the Witch, Romeo and Juliet, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, The Magic Flute, and The Billy Goats Gruff. Favorite musical theatre pieces he has directed include: The Full Monty, Victor/Victoria, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, All Shook Up, and Evil Dead: The Musical.  Mr. Norman is an accomplished singer and actor as well having sung comprimario roles and in the chorus for Toledo Opera for many years. He has sung with Renee Fleming, Robert Merrill, Lili Chookasian, Irina Mishura, Diana Soviero, and many more. He serves as Director of Artistic Administration and Production and Artistic Director of Opera On Wheels for the Toledo Opera. Additionally, Mr. Norman has taught part-time in the English department at the University of Toledo since 1992 and is president of the Ballet Theatre of Toledo board.

 

Domonique L. Glover, Choreographer

Domonique Glover began his dance career as a senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia while studying mathematics. He took classes in ballet, modern, and contemporary and was a member of the Spelman Dance Theater student company. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in math and moved back to Toledo, Ohio where he continued studying dance locally. Since 2009, Mr. Glover has choreographed several local performances throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Among these include Hairspray, Heathers: The Musical, and West Side Story with the Toledo Repertoire teen productions; Ragtime, Violet: The Musical, and The Scottsboro Boys produced at The Croswell Opera House in Adrian, Michigan. Mr. Glover made his Toledo Opera debut in the 2018 production of I Dream as a feature dancer. He has performed on various stages, including The Valentine Theater, The Stranahan Theater, The Toledo Repertoire, The Ohio Theater, The Maumee Indoor Theater, The Croswell in Adrian, Michigan, The Fillmore in Detroit, Michigan, The Breen Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and The Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina. He currently performs with and teaches multiple levels of contemporary and ballet with T.H.E. Modern Dance Company - Toledo’s Human Experience. Mr. Glover is blessed to be working with Toledo Opera in this capacity and looks forward to more endeavors.

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