Sunday, December 27, 2009

Franz Lehar Lost in Translation

"La Veuve Joyeuse"  (The Merry Widow, Die Lustige Witwe): this production, filmed in Opera de Lyon  2007, was released in France on DVD only a few months ago, and is nowadays being shown on  cable TV [ Mezzo]. Not very wise or businesslike if you ask me, but hey, I ain't gonna buy this DVD, so that's good with me ;)
After having watched it on TV,  I don't understand why the show was released on DVD at all.

Yes, you guessed it right, it is the French adaptation of the famous Lehar's operette "Die Lustige Witwe". Not only that it's translated into French,  but they also modified Pontevedro to Marsovie, and our dear Hanna Glawari was renamed to  Missia Palmieri

Before I pressed  "play" I thought anything would be better than the Dresden production by Jérôme Savary which I've recently seen on the same channel. In retrospect, I can only say "What was I thinking?!"  Macha Makeïeff  -this production's director- is the same coolaid drinker as Savary, and therefore this show is as "good/bad" as the one by Savary. 

 Macha Makeïeff spoils the show. Most [all ?] of her jokes fall short and the show never really takes off. This then makes it all look oldish and sometimes even pathetic. As for the rest of her job, she did exactly what one should avoid doing with this musical comedy; instead of playing with the witty side of the story and  easy-to-play-with characters, instead of capitalizing on Lehar's score which so brilliantly vibrates with the story, she chose to sugar it and look like a barely coherent sequence of tableaux. If you scale a budget of a high-school-like concept of staging a comedy by several orders of magnitude, you get the idea of how this production actually looks like. She is more of a decorator than stage director, if you ask me.

To be fair, it is not entirely her fault. The French adaptation itself is already bad to begin with. Marsovians [remember Pontevedro is translated into Marsovie] speak either Polish [which would make sense: Marsovie <-> Varsovie; Varsovie=Warsaw] or Russian [sic!], while Danilo  remained Danilo, Bogdanowitsch remained Bogdanowitsch..., in short it's a mess => and you obviously lose an extra satirical dimension of the original libretto, hence  lost in translation/adaptation. This then entails that all the dancing numbers lost their gravy-role in the process of constructing the story. It also makes you lose a grip on the theatrical brilliance of the Lehar's score.

As for the positive side of this DVD, the orchestral part is nicely built and kept in life (and kept me awake!) by Gérard Korsten. Together with the singers they rescue this show from a total disaster : Véronique Gens sings as you'd expect a reliable singer to sing; she justifies her reputation for being (one of) the best current French soprano(s); she nailed Vilja Lied brilliantly, including the last high-B;  on the other hand her acting is one-dimensional and  she fails to bring out any boorishness of Hanna Glawari Missia Palmieri. Ivan Ludloff looked a bit intimidated by the event, and seemed not to care to invest a bit more in the role of Danilo; Magali Léger (adorable!) brought her lightness and cheerfulness in this production to make it festive for 1 evening of your Christmas holidays. 

On the scale 1-5 :

Véronique Gens: 4-5
Ivan Ludloff: 2-3

Magali Léger: 3-4

Macha Makeieff's production: 1-2

érard Korsten: 3-4

Overall impression: 2

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