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

3.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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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.

Amazon.com

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


Special Features

  • Sung in English

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: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005RIXJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,820 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lehar - The Merry Widow / Bonynge, Sutherland, Stevens, Opera Australia" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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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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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By A Customer on July 24, 2001
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is the gold standard for the Merry Widow. It deserves six stars if I could give them. I have owned the VHS version for decades and always compare any new version I see to this one.... and none are equal to it, even if Joan Sutherland is quite heavy and past her prime, this is still the best. The casting is perfect, the costumes outstanding, the choreography excellent. I am glad it is now available in DVD format also. Six stars for the Aussies!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Despite Joan Sutherland being a little matronly for the role of the Young Widowed Millionairess, I had loads of fun watching this production.

Joan Sutherland is really the highlight of this DVD. Despite her age, and her voice being a little past it's prime, Joan's speaking voice is silvery and she has a very charming air to her, and she is a joy to watch in a cheery role, with a lot of dialogue as opposed to a tragic sung through heroine. A very good change in pace. Her voice reaches soaring high notes in certain parts, which is her trademark, and it's still thrilling. The audience is quite enthusiastic and I could feel it.

The production itself is gorgeous, and intimate. The Costumes are fantastic, and glitzy, what more could you want from it? (Maybe a high def recording to get the most of the details and sound.) The Video is of usual recordings of the times, and the sound is quite good. Overall production and video quality are good.

Get it! I did just to see Joan in this role, and I really enjoyed it, it's something new and different for her :)
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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 about a widow who was going to marry. I was glad I could add this DVD to my collection of operettas..
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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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Format: DVD
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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