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Lehar - The Merry Widow / Bonynge, Sutherland, Stevens, Opera Australia (1988)

Joan Sutherland , Ron Stevens , Virginia Lumsden  |  NR |  DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Joan Sutherland, Ron Stevens, Anne Maree McDonald, Anson Austin, Gordon Wilcock
  • Directors: Virginia Lumsden
  • Writers: Christopher Hassall, Leo Stein, Viktor Léon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 20, 2001
  • Run Time: 155 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005RIXJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,814 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lehar - The Merry Widow / Bonynge, Sutherland, Stevens, Opera Australia" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Sung in English

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Turn of the century Paris provides the glittering setting for this light hearted tale of political and amorous intrigue amidst the gaiety of Parisian high society.

This production of Lehar's The Merry Widow is a mixed bag, appropriate, perhaps, for a work of art that is both sublime and ridiculous. Its weakest element is the presence of Joan Sutherland, which will undoubtedly attract the most buyers. Still, viewers will replay it often (perhaps bypassing some of Sutherland's numbers) for the sake of its lavish production, particularly for the abundant, polished, and colorful dance numbers.

The 1988 performance, by the Australian Opera in the elegant Sydney Opera House, dates from the end of Sutherland's career, and it leaves one wondering whether she should have retired a bit sooner, while at the same time treasuring every moment in the presence of one of the unique voices of the 20th century. There are moments of beauty in her singing, but intonation and support are both variable. The supporting cast, including Ronald Stevens, Anne-Maree McDonald, and Anson Austin, is generally adept, though some gags (especially the Pontevedran accents) may seem overworked. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
The video and sound are scrumptious, Lehar's music is as appealing and lively as ever, and the supporting cast is fine. The costumes, scenery, and choreography are marvelous.

HOWEVER -- Sutherland was almost 62 when she did this, and was no longer physically or musically worthy of this role. Her voice is weak, wavering, off-key. She is too heavy and lacking in energy to be a sprightly merry widow. This might be tolerable in a cameo appearance for old time's sake, but not in the starring role that overshadows all other parts. I want my money back.

Why did Sutherland ever go along with releasing this blemish on her heavenly legacy of masterpieces? Did she long to experience once more the intoxication of the fawning crowds and adulation her name alone might bring? Was it money? Even if Sutherland and hubby Bonynge (the conductor) were contentedly rich from their many deserving efforts of previous decades, others might have pressed for one more big profit. Too bad.

Clearly, it must have been Sutherland's star power and birthplace, not the actual performance, which had the crowd in her hometown (Sydney) cheering and applauding so wildly. I cannot believe that they (or any knowledgeable reviewer with normal hearing) could honestly enjoy Sutherland's embarrassing performance, which someone along the way should have withheld from release.

UPDATE: We no longer have much reason to buy this DVD. Not only is the San Francisco Opera's four-star English performance now on the market, but five-star versions in German (the original language almost always fits the music and rhythm better) are available. The Zürich production (
... Read more ›
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply gorgeous July 24, 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I absolutely love this opera and this video of it. Joan Sutherland and Ronald Stevens are great together. Although Sutherland is a bit older, it is still Sutherland and her voice IS the Countess. Ronald Stevens is gorgeous with a voice to match. It is better than anything that is being put out now and beats the Merry Widow that the Met did. Own it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous operette in colors and scenery May 18, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Although it is true that Joan Sutherland seemed too old for this part as Madame Glawari, however her acting and voice is still superb. Ignoring this condition, the operette itself was shown marvelously in colors, scenery and costumes. Also the ballet and dancing give us much enjoyment too watch this video. It was a real amusement to see the funny situation and words, as it is sung in English and quite understandable. All in short, we need only enjoy the music, scenery (which is superb), costumes and other singers who participate their own credit to this operette.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Merry Widow, a flop March 13, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Sorry, The Merry Widow is a delightsome Operetta, but Joan Sutherland is past her prime for such a part. Her singing starts out wavering and slightly off key. She is too old and too big to carry off the dances. Ronald Stevens did a good job, but could not carry Joan Sutherland. (no pun intended) We will just have to wait for a newer singer, better suited for this Operetta. Help, will someone produce a bubbly good Merry Widow.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hook for the diva ??????? February 7, 2003
There certainly are a lot of warts on this Australian production, and to blame them all on Joan Southerland is, I think misguided..... I mean even the editorial review is less than flattering to the aging diva ... meeoww meowww ... little plate of milk for, on the floor though, the ed reviewers .....
This is one of the very very few DVD's of this opera and that is what makes it enjoyable, to be able to at least see in in your home. The dance numbers are exquisite and as a whole the lighting and video are excellent....
If there is a down on this DVD well I am disgusted that it was only cut in two channel Dolby ... what ... 2 channels ... I didn't even know there was a dvd available in 2 channel stereo ... WOW what a bummer ...
As a die hard audiophile I couldn't take it and left the room ... but my wife and all her friends who are card carrying, season ticket opera NUTS ... all enjoyed the DVD ... go figure ....
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best May 18, 2002
I thought the entire cast was superlative. I enjoyed every minute of it. Dame Joan Sutherland is magnificient. Her rendition of Vilja was the best I have ever heard. This song was one of my Mother's favorites and I have heard it many times, but never as beautifully done as this. I enjoyed Ronald Stevens, Anne-Maree McDonald, Anson Austin, Gordon Wilcock and Graeme Ewer. They were so very good. There were others in the cast, as well as the dancers that were marvelous. My final rating of this on a scale of 1 to 10, at least a 20.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nonsense August 28, 2004
I didn't like it, but the audience in Australia certainly did. Sutherland sang only one thing (in my opinion) poorly, and that was I think the last number in the show, what is commonly called The Merry Widow Waltz. She sang it in her "low voice" (to take an expression from Kiri Te Kanawa) and I didn't like it. The rest of it (what there WAS of it!) was wonderful. Too much dialogue. Too much farce (it was stupid). I've heard several different versions of this score, and except a few tunes, they all seem to have different songs in them. Which reminds me, my preference (even over Sutherland) is Studer's CD of this show. Glorious! I may be mistaken, but I think, in fact am almost positive, that some of the songs were cut (to make room for that boring, idiotic dialogue? And what was the point of all the dancing, the choreography of which was NOT particularly enthralling?). Finally, it was a pleasure, a treasure to hear Sutherland talk in English at great length, she is one of my favorite people, and now at last I know what her speaking voice sounded like. The English lyrics were pedestrian, and they might as well have left it all in German it was so hard to understand what anyone was saying. I liked the 3rd act the best. And I knew I was in trouble (like a dish of cold water in the face) when Danilo spoke instead of singing his first number. Bleah!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, see and hear it; but the music is boring.
Southerland seemed to me to be in good voice despite her age, but I have not followed that voice over her singing years (age 60, I believe, when she performed here). Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert M. Nied
3.0 out of 5 stars SF Opera DVD is better choice
The more recent San Francisco Opera DVD of the Merry Widow is superior, this DVD, not so much.
Published 1 month ago by Nedrual
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
a very good performance even Joan Sutherland who is a bit old for the part!
Published 1 month ago by WILLIAM PARKER
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Overly Keen
This just didn't grab me. Yes, the voices are good, the costumes stunning but I have seen better Widows before and this was not a keeper.
Published 4 months ago by Lee Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Operettas
The production values, orchestra, acting, and signing by all the performers were perfect. Joan Sutherland, although typically an opera singer, adapted well to this light comedy... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Individualist
1.0 out of 5 stars Reviewing(Again)
I was pressed by Amazon to review item. I had not played I, as my machine was broken. I had said something like I was sure it would be great, based on the work and the stars... Read more
Published 16 months ago by E. Rogers
1.0 out of 5 stars I made myself watch it and cringed the entire time...
Sutherland really should have opted out and done herself -- and this production -- a favor. I simply couldn't get into it (and this is my favorite opera! Read more
Published on August 12, 2009 by Martha Powers
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superior Work, Performed As Pure Entertainment, And Enjoyed By A...
Filmed during a live performance 3 February, 1988, within Sydney's justly esteemed opera house, Franz Lehar's Merry Widow is sung here by soon to be retired Joan Sutherland, in... Read more
Published on July 1, 2009 by rsoonsa
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT SHOW
This is a great DVD ifi you want to see the heroine, getting the man, and staying alive to enjoy it. The ballet is great, the costumes are amazing, and the prince is.... Read more
Published on March 31, 2004 by M. D. Escobar
3.0 out of 5 stars Direct from Australian TV
This performance was not made just for, or even with DVD in mind, it is simply a transfer from a standard TV production, and as such is flawed, the michrophones are of poor... Read more
Published on January 17, 2004 by Ralph Paulsen
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