t was all Vienna and Franz Lehar and Paris and Maxim's Thursday at the Kennedy Center when the New York City Opera brought in its celebrated production of "The Merry Widow."
Julius Rudel, whose Viennese flair dominated Tuesday night's "Marriage of Figaro," was as much at the heart of the proceedings in the great Lehar score. He led it with an affection that paced every moment pertectly.
Beverly Sills is the Merry Widow of the show. It was designed with her in mind and she is its heart. Though she had a cold last night, it showed only in her speaking voice. Her every motoin, gesture and lift of an eyebrow projected the music's meaning.
She is backed up by a strong cast, one that shows the multiple strengths of the company in many ways. Alan Titus has all the right bearing and manner as Danilo, as do Diana Soviero as Valencienne and Henry Price as Rosillon.
These last two made much of their exquisite scene outside the second-act pavilion. If they would do still more with soft singing, taking time for the ravishing phrases, they would make it all even better.
Sills is a model in all these matters. She shades every note, letting nuances create the seductive atmosphere that fills the whole score. When those violins put on their mutes, singers should do the same thing.
James Billings made Njegus all that he should be. Insinuating and suggesting in the first two acts, he brought the house down with his scene in the last.
What might have been thought of as unlikely talents, even in so well-matched an ensemble, came to the fore when the leading men lined up for a can-can reminiscent of their favorite night spot. It, too, brought down the house. With sets and costumes that created just the right mood for the whole piece, this was an irresistible "Merry Widow."