<em>The Merry Widow</em>

David Bazemore

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow at the Granada

Opera Santa Barbara Pulls Off Fanciful Frolic

Before Madonna became the Material Girl and before Marilyn was the Blonde that Gentlemen Prefer, there was the Merry Widow. A citizen of the fictional country of Pontevedro, but more importantly a single woman of great fortune living in Paris, Hanna Glawari (Janette Zilioli) attracts men like swarms of buzzing bees. As she enters the drawing room down the majestic staircase at the center of this production’s elegant set, Hanna is surrounded by men in evening clothes. As each of them pays his suit, and rivalries develop among them, it is only the dashing Count Danilo Danilovitsch (Eugene Chan) who can rise above the crowd and secure the lady’s full attention. Thus begins an evening full of comic intrigue, flashing visions of high life, and beautiful music of all kinds.

Although the first act includes much mugging and clowning around, it is not until Act Two that The Merry Widow finds its feet as a real opera, or at least a very accomplished and beautiful operetta. It is then that the farcical dilemma of Baron Mirko Zeta (Steve Grabe) and his fickle spouse, Valencienne (Ani Maldjian) gives way to the more nuanced and fervently mixed feelings of Hanna and Danilo as the drama’s main subject. Zilioli did a magnificent job with the “Vilia” song, a nearly perfect operatic rendering of the romantic era commonplace of the woodland sprite. And, although the diplomatic sashes the men wear with their formal attire and the fictional land of Pontevedro both recall the Marx brothers, the mood shifts toward a slightly more serious tone. Valencienne and her lover, Camille (Thorsteinn H. Arbjornsson), play a more complex scene that reveals their relationship’s shifting nature, and Zeta, now accompanied by his sidekick Njegus (James Calvert), becomes even more antic.

As with any true music hall entertainment, The Merry Widow builds irresistibly to a wild climax. The integration of the State Street Ballet dancers to the Maxim’s sequence as cancan dancers brought an excitement and authenticity to the last act that succeeded in raising the stakes admirably. In the end, all is for the best in this most fanciful of possible worlds.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Biggest Storm Since 1/9 Approaching Santa Barbara

The storm system brings increased threat of flash floods and debris flows.

Jack Johnson Tours Montecito Disaster Area Ahead of Benefit Concert

Jack and Kim Johnson met with Bucket Brigade leaders to see the destruction firsthand.

Iron Chef Caused State Street Pedestrian Death

Famous Chef Larry Forgione charged with misdemeanor for driving into Gilbert Ramirez on February 24.

Lavagnino’s Sudden Victory

5th District supervisor a shoo-in as filing window closes; Gregg Hart also unopposed for 2nd District.

One Half of Old Town Streets to Get Sidewalks

Walkways planned for one side of Goleta neighborhood streets; parking, lighting talks at community meeting March 22.