DuPage Opera Theater Brings 'Merry' Operetta to Its Stage

Article excerpt

When most people think of opera, they think of elaborate sets, thick librettos and complicated stories sung in Italian.

It can seem intimidating - but it doesn't have to be. In fact, it can be downright charming.

In February, the DuPage Opera Theatre, the resident professional opera company at College of DuPage, will present "The Merry Widow," an operetta by composer Franz Lehar that is sung entirely in English.

"(Operetta) is a lighter genre (than opera)," said Harold Bauer, artistic director of the DuPage Opera Theatre. "It's a more popular form, and it's immediately accessible to the general public."

Bauer said "The Merry Widow" takes place at the turn of the 19th century. Hanna Glawari (played here by Christine Steyer) is a recently widowed woman who is heir to a fortune of $20 million.

Her small country, Petrovenia, is focused on keeping her fortune within their borders or else it will go bankrupt. Meanwhile, Hanna visits Paris and is pursued by men who wants her money.

Ambassador Popov of Petrovenia (Andrew Schultze) calls upon the handsome count Danilo (Steven Jepson) to woo Hanna and, hopefully, keep her money within the country.

What the ambassador does not know is that Danilo and Hanna were childhood sweethearts kept apart by Danilo's uncle who forbade him to marry "below his station" because, when they were young, Hanna was just a farm girl.

In the end, love wins out.

"(The Merry Widow) is such a masterpiece of its genre," Bauer said. "It fully deserves to be in the company of the great operas of history."

The actors seem to agree with this assessment of the operetta.

Steven Jepson of Aurora plays Count Danilo. He is performing in his fourth production with the DuPage Opera Theatre. He said he considers Danilo to be one of his "standard" characters. In fact, it was his first lead in 1987 in Beaumont, Texas.

"(Danilo) allows you to be suave and goofy at the same time," said Jepson, who has been singing professionally since 1986.

Christine Steyer of Chicago, who plays the widow Hanna Glawari, is performing her role for the first time. This also is her first production with the DuPage Opera Theatre. …