Review by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES-- THE MERRY WIDOW waltzed into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Dec. 2 for a six-performance run through Dec. 22. Franz Lehar's
operetta stars Carol Vanessa and Rodney Gilfry, two local favorites.
Dean Peterson sings the role of Baron Zeta, with Operalia 2000 winner
Virginia Tola making her L.A. debut as Camille de Rosillon.


Gilfry was oustanding as the dashing, devilish Count Danilo. Not only
did he sing with gusto and grace, he commanded the stage with his
charismatic presence as an actor. Vanessa, however, did not fare so well as the widow Anna Glawari, a role that, from the discomfort she showed as singer and actress, does not seem to suit her. Despite being decked out in some of Thierry Bosquet's most outrageous costumes, she never made Anna come truly alive, and her voice seemed pinched and bordering on strident all night long.

Tola, on the other hand, was in magnificent form over the course of Lehar's operetta, which was padded out by director Lotfi Mansouri twenty years ago to accomodate Joan Sutherland's performance at San Francisco Opera. Mansouri has kept the additions--choral numbers and dances from other of Lehar's works-- and while they lend music-hall glitz and sex to THE MERRY WIDOW, they make it unecessarily long and tacky. Lehar's story may be outdated but it still has charm and bite enough to engage, and his score is packed with marvelous melodies and arias. It's too bad that modern directors no longer seem to trust its satirical look at mankind's greedy quest for money and power.

Also excelling in THE MERRY WIDOW were Jason Graae (whose comic turns as Njegus nearly stole the show), Greg Fedderly, Louis Lebherz and Dean Peterson. Jessica Rivera, Marnie Mosiman and Brooks Almy also did
yeoman comic and vocal work.

John DeMain conducted this Utah Opera production which was designed by
Michael Yeargan with much opulence and flair. (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-365-3500).