Review: The Merry Widow (Toronto Opera Repertoire)

The Merry Widow is a lighthearted operatic production playing at the Toronto Opera Repertoire

Accompanying their production of Lucia di Lammermoor, the Toronto Opera Repertoire is also presenting The Merry Widow, a show I was invited to for a matinee showing that I graciously accepted considering how much I enjoyed my first exposure to the TOR. A show as opposite to its counterpart as night is to day, The Merry Widow is a comedic musical gallivant of cheating lovers and the pursuit of greed with a healthy dose of provocative can-can dancers.

Written by Franz Lehár and making its original debut in 1905, The Merry Widow is a story taking place in the imaginary Balkan country of Pontevedro. A newly widowed, Anna Glawari (Jennifer Rasor), has inherited a hefty sum of 20 million francs. The money, being stored in the Pontevedrian national bank, amounts to most of the country’s finances. Should Anna marry a foreigner, the country would go bankrupt! Of course, there is no shortage of Pontevedrian men (of the bachelor and married variety) willing to offer their hand in marriage including Anna’s former flame Prince Danilo Danilovitch (Jay Lambie).

The performance is done in English with supertitles for the songs projected to the ceiling. Though this show feels much more like a modern musical (with quite a few more spoken parts), the music is still very operatic and therefore can be a bit difficult to follow. If you’re looking for a lighthearted theatrical experience, this is a great production to experience as opera aside, this performance is easy to comprehend and absorb.

Accompanying me for this matinee was my boyfriend Bob who was happy to cross off “see live opera” from his list of life events to experience. During intermission, he became happy to inform me how he felt Jay Lambie’s performance reminded him of a younger version of the great Luciano Pavarotti. Definitely high praise and a sentiment I’m happy to agree with. I was sent an email informing me that Jay Lambie was suffering a bad cold that day that may have affected his voice. Neither of us could tell. Another show stealing performance came from Jennifer Rasor whose remarkable solos left us both speechless.

The musical performances will blow you away while the comedic interludes will leave you laughing and smiling throughout the show. If this is your idea of a great time at the theatre then you’re in luck. As the Toronto Opera Repertoire takes pride in combining opera with community theatre, their productions become accessible to anyone curious to explore. With both a tragedy (Lucia di Lammermoor) and a comedy (The Merry Widow) playing during this season’s run, whatever your taste your desire for opera will be fulfilled.


– The Merry Widow is showing at the Bickford Centre (777 Bloor Street West)
– Performances are on February 17, 22, 25 and March 2 at 7:30 pm with matinees on February 19 and March 4 at 2 pm.
– Tickets are $25 and $15 for students.
– Tickets can be purchased in advance online at, by phone by calling 416-978-5549 or at the door.

Photo of (back row, L to R) Michaelangelo D’Onofrio, Giovanni Minardi, Jay Lambie, Gerald Hannon, Frank de Jong, (front row) Rob Maxwell, David Roche, and Anthony Fauré by James Thomson.