Lehár, Die Lustige Witwe
I could not resist the thought of seeing Ferenc Lehár’s Lustige Witwe with the Sarajevo National Opera this evening. A classic of Viennese operetta from a sadly-departed era, this work poked fun of the little Kingdom of Montenegro, Bosnia’s (then Austria’s) mountain neighbor. Bosnia was, at the time, inside the Austrian Monarchy, so the Bosnians inherited the right, I suppose.
Tonight’s performance, done traditionally, did not lack the necessary humor. However, it also betrayed quite a large amount of melancholy, a mix of nostalgia for a world long departed and sadness for the plot twists that easily could have resulted in disaster but somehow all worked out in the end. This performance would have equally succeeded as a comic tragedy. I probably would have gotten even more out of tonight’s production, but the cast performed in whatever it is they call the language nowadays (formerly known as Serbo-Croatian). Entirely appropriate, given the opera, but nevertheless it limited my full comprehension.
Still, conductor Dario Vučić gave an idiomatic reading, which vividly conveyed the message. The orchestra warmed into the evening, sounding better and lighter as the night wore on. The cast missed too many cues – I think due to their own lack of attentiveness than Vučić’s. Adema Pljevljak-Krehić was the undisputed star as Hanna Glawari, the widow of the title, her beautiful sweet voice backed up with a good amount of power. As the leading man, Davor Radić as Count Danilo provided a very good counterpart, although his voice came across somewhat weaker and throatier on the higher register, only partly counterbalanced by the twinkle in his eye. As Baron Mirko Zeta, Jasmin Bašić kept the plot driving forward whenever he appeared. The audience reacted well to Mirvad Kurić, in the non-singing role of Njeguš, but since I did not really catch the language I found this portrayal harder to judge – he certainly did not clown around excessively on stage, so this was a slightly more subtle portrayal. All of this took place inside Sarajevo’s attractive and mostly-renovated National Theater.