Sydney Opera House
By Kristy Johnson
Over the course of The Australian Ballet’s 49-year history, The Merry Widow is one of the most successful ballets for the company. Not only is it the epitome of elegance and glamour, one could say it’s also the most enjoyable production to watch. Character ‘Hanna Glawari’ is the wise and beautiful widow; ‘Danilo Danilowitsch’ is the lofty idealist. As each act takes place, the audience watches them spar, squabble and flirt, whilst the music reveals their perfect harmony.
On Tuesday November 15th, I had the pleasure to attend The Australian Ballet’s 389th performance of The Merry Widow at the Sydney Opera House, and was not disappointed. As an adaptation of Franz Lehar’s romantic operetta, dancers took the audience through a love story, choreographed by Ronald Hynd. Hanna, played by The Hong Kong Ballet’s Jin Yao as part of The Australian Ballet’s dancer exchange program, was a perfect fit to play the astute and striking widow. Jin’s technique was impeccable and I was simply drawn to her.
Performances by male dancers Brett Simon, Andrew Wright, Matthew Donnelly and Jacob Sofer, were right on the mark. Each dancer displayed copious strength, height and stamina throughout the entire performance. Their athletic ability and execution was of a high calibre, which you would expect to see from soloists of The Australian Ballet.
While acts one and three were of a more traditional approach to ballet, act two definitely catered towards those who favour a more contemporary and abstract form. With the scene taking place in the garden of Hanna’s villa, there was almost an element of national character to the movement, with accents in footwork.
It was quite fitting to see Artist in Residence Colin Peasley, play the role of Baron Mirko Zeta in this much-loved classic. Continuing to perform character roles with the company, Colin’s comic ability and stage presence stands out as one of the most memorable parts of the performance.
With a production evoking elegance and glamour, you would not expect any less than a lavish set design and wardrobe. Designed by Desmond Heeley, the audience was left captivated by a flurry of eye-catching ball gowns and fans, top hats and tails. I almost wanted to step inside the scene, and be immersed in the opulence.
All in all, this is by far one of the most enjoyable productions I have seen by The Australian Ballet. The dedication and tireless effort the company puts into each production, with beautiful scenery, decadent costuming and a high standard of technique and performance quality is evident. I would highly recommend this production to ballet lovers everywhere.
Photo: Andrew Killian and Madeleine Eastoe. Photo by Jeff Busby