Everyone streamed out of Haddo House Hall with a smile on their face despite the fact it was pouring with rain on Tuesday evening.

The reason? Opera Bohemia’s production of the Merry Widow was such a delightful evening of glamorous, humorous and highly musical entertainment that it was easy to ignore the downpour and escape into a world of Parisian style, romance and marvellously melodic tunes. It provided the perfect opportunity to launch the programme for the Haddo Arts Festival which takes place at the venue from October 5-12.

Within a simple, striking and versatile set painted in strawberry and vanilla ice cream colours, the romantic story unfolded in the embassies and salons of Paris. Every single member of the highly talented, young and enthusiastic cast, whether they were main characters or in supporting roles, threw themselves into the action.

The singing was of the highest quality and greatly enhanced by brilliant acting along with imaginative choreography, all of which added extra oomph to this light-hearted and hugely witty production. Highlights included the Merry Widow Waltz and the Vilja song sung by the widow in Act 11, an old Balkan type of song about a mythical forest fairy who enchants hunters.

But this production included many memorable scenes including the hilarious drunken diners staggering back from an extremely boozy supper, the energetic dances of the Parisian showgirls and a Hungarian folk dance performed with panache. There simply wasn’t a dull moment.

 

Andrew McTaggart as Baron Zeta was a hugely likeable teddy bear of a man with a warm heart and a wayward wife convincingly played by Marie Clair Breen while Catriona Clark, with superb mastery over her amazing voice, shone as the Merry Widow. Douglas Nairne was extremely convincing as the elusive former lover of the widow resisting her advances until truth came to the fore as the plot unfolded.

The atmosphere of this attractive production was not unlike Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel film with its glamorous, elegant costumes and East European characters set in some imagined time between the Edwardian era and the world of 1930s fashion. It was a wonderful place to escape for the evening and congratulations to all the cast and production team for bringing such a top quality production to Haddo – and also for travelling  to small venues all over Scotland so people far from cities can enjoy top quality opera on their doorstep.

Lucy Gordon

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