Lehar: Die lustige Witwe

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Die lustige Witwe
PERFORMER: Bryn Terfel, Barbara Bonney, Boje Skovhus, Cheryl Studer, Rainer Trost, Heinz ZednikMonteverdi Choir, VPO/John Eliot Gardiner
The excellent live EMI recording of The Merry Widow with Lott and Hampson, and Welser-Möst conducting the London Philharmonic and Glyndebourne Chorus, was released last year in two editions. The first – a limited edition – included a delightfully sardonic narration written by Tom Stoppard for Dirk Bogarde; the second, current edition contains music only, with the effervescent score given a stylish and sophisticated performance. This new DG recording provides polished dialogue from the singers to move the plot along and is a welcome self-contained version of the work.


Gardiner and the Vienna Philharmonic ensure that Lehár’s score pulses with verve and spirit. The Act II March-Septet reveals a tour de force of ensemble work. Studer makes a strong impact with a vivid, energetic portrayal of the Widow Glawari. Her line in the ‘Vilja Song’ is langourously sensuous. Indeed, Gardiner’s pace, when the ‘Vilja’ theme transfers to the chorus (the Monteverdi Choir), extracts a truly mesmerising mantra effect. Skovhus is a warm and mischievous Danilo, not always consistent in producing his remarkable baritone sound, but providing exquisitely turned phrases. Bonney should be a perfect Valencienne, but her usual gleaming soprano is slightly dull at times and her duets with Trost’s occasionally overstretched Camille, although good, fail to deliver the fireworks of Lehár’s glittering lovers’ music. The Act I ‘Ein trautes Zimmerlein’ is the exception: it is entrancing. Elise McDougall