Monday, November 20, 2017

The Milwaukee Rep presents "Holmes & Watson"

A heart-pounding drama of mystery & murder


Suspense, plot twists, believability, a dash of humor, a satisfying finale — that's what successful murder-mysteries are made of. When a play possesses all of these hallmarks and even boasts the company of everyone's favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes, a surefire hit seems elementary, my dear Watson. So what of Holmes & Watson, a new drama making its midwest debut at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Let's examine the evidence, starting with a spoiler-free gist of the play by writer Jeffery Hatcher: Following Sherlock Holmes' "death" at Reichenbach Falls, Dr. Watson must travel far and wide to disprove the many charlatans who now claim to be the real Sherlock. When we meet Watson, he has just been called to a remote mental asylum housing three men, each claiming to be the late detective and matching his physical description. Now it's up to the sidekick to solve the mystery and determine which of the three gentleman, if any, is the real Sherlock Holmes. 



Without giving anything away, I can safely say that although Holmes & Watson is a new work, it's still a mystery that plays out as other classics of this genre tend to — with all the aforementioned suspense and plot twists. I brought my brother along to the theater on opening night, and we shared more than one suspicious, nervous, or wide-eyed glance over the course of the play. At one point I even gasped and grabbed his arm for dear life — a testament to the caliber of acting, directing, and writing on display. 

There really isn't a sour apple in the bunch, as far as actors go. The three Sherlocks are especially fun to watch, probably because it's always a treat to see someone new don the iconic — and in this case, figurative — double-brimmed hat. Ryan Imhoff plays a Sherlock most akin to Benedict Cumberbatch's quick-witted, brooding BBC iteration — and he's tall, dark, and handsome to boot. Grant Goodman gives us a straight-jacketed Sherlock, crazed but smart and convincing in his portrayal's originality. 



I have to say my favorite of the three goes to Rex Young, whose deaf, mute, and blind Sherlock held my attention in a sort of straight jacket of its own. Now that's stage presence. Norman Moses delivers a solid, likable Dr. Watson, though I must admit there were times in the doctor's investigation that lagged just a little. With an 80-minute, intermission-free show, one would hope to be on the very edge of one's seat for each precious moment. 

Still, I'd argue that almost every classic murder-mystery suffers from a smidgeon of wordy exposition — a momentary detour from the suspense. But when those suspenseful moments present themselves in Holmes & Watson, they'll have you holding your breath and clutching your neighbor's arm. To me, that's what makes Holmes & Watson feel like a new classic — one that lovers of traditional Sherlock Holmes will no doubt enjoy. 

One final favorite I have to acknowledge: The remarkable staging and set design, as well as direction by the Milwaukee Rep's former Artistic Director, Joseph Hanreddy. The multilevel set mixes practical effects — mainly chilling mists — and multimedia projections to flesh out the scenes to marvelous effect. 

So what's the final verdict? As the house lights came on after the wonderfully dizzying final scene, my brother and I left the theater saying, "That was fun!" If you ask me, that's just what an evening of "whodunnit?" should be. 

Holmes & Watson is playing through December 17th at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Info and tickets at milwaukeerep.com.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Milwaukee Rep presents "Murder for Two"

Laugh-out-loud murder & mayhem in the Stackner Cabaret


Confession: They had to resuscitate me before I could write this post because I had died from laughter. Somehow the Milwaukee Repertory Theater keeps one-upping itself with the sheer joy it's bringing to the stage at the Stackner Cabaret. Murder for Two, running now through January 14th, is a mix of music, murder, and mayhem — or as Joe Kinosian, the show's co-author and Milwaukee High School of the Arts alumnus, calls it: "a love letter to musical theater, screwball comedy, and partnership." 



The 90-minute, intermission-free musical comedy features a whopping 13 characters played by just two actors. Sweet-voiced and charming, Matt Edmonds plays would-be detective Marcus Moscowicz. Aforementioned Milwaukeean and co-author of Murder for Two, Joe Kinosian, plays the zany lineup of most unusual suspects. Both fellas play the piano and sing and sweat their faces off. As far as musical talent goes, these guys are good — really good. 

In a nutshell, the story pays homage to classic murder-mystery plots: A mixed bag of folks holed up in a giant house, a sudden lethal gunshot, a new detective on scene, and the big question — whodunnit? I'm happy to report that Murder for Two keeps you guessing 'til the end. It's hilarious fun to watch Kinosian tackle his own spectrum of suspects — the merry widow, the quarreling married couple, the melodramatic ballerina, the cagey psychiatrist. 



I don't dare name them all, as half the fun is watching Kinosian pull character after character out of his magic hat. How one man can not only keep all those personalities straight but also bring them to life with such rapid-fire fluidity is absolutely astounding. At bow-taking time, I couldn't jump to my feet fast enough to give the Milwaukee native an insanely well-deserved standing ovation. 

Of course, as Kinosian said, Murder for Two isn't just a love letter to screwball comedy — it's also an ode to partnership. Though one might deduce that Kinosian's multiple personalities will forever steal the show, such characters would surely fall by the wacky wayside without a more cool and collected foil. 

Enter Matt Edmonds' "Detective" Moscowicz, an officer on a quest to solve the mystery and prove his worth. Edmonds lends a dash of heart to the otherwise crazy-funny plot and rides the wave of Kinosian's antics without skipping a beat. It's a marvel that he can make it through the show without bursting out laughing; I know the opening night crowd in the Stackner Cabaret could barely contain their own hysteric bursts. Kinosian calls it "Marx Bros.-style escapism." I call it a must-see. 

Murder for Two is playing through January 14th at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Info and tickets at milwaukeerep.com.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Hamilton" in Chicago

In the room where it happened — with Lin-Manuel Miranda 


Blow us all away. I always knew that’s what finally seeing Hamilton would do. Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about why the then relatively-new Broadway sensation had me feeling helpless. Like so many others, I obsessed, gushed & freaked the hell out over the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer prize-winning hip hop musical. 

But when they announced Hamilton was coming to Chicago, I didn’t pull the trigger immediately. Figured I’d wait for it, wait for it, wait. And Alexander was wrong — I didn’t get nothing by waiting. By some stroke of luck or cosmic intervention, the crowd at the November 11th 2pm show in Chicago got so much more than we ever bargained for. 




You see, Lin-Manuel Miranda was there. Just there. Sitting center-orchestra, somewhere around Row N. Him and his lil’ burgundy beanie. The murmur started small. I looked up to see folks in the balcony leaning over, iphones blazing. The murmur grew. “Some celebrity,” the lady next to me said. 

Then the rumor reached us in orchestra-left — Lin-Manuel. “No, it couldn’t possibly,” I scoffed. But then he rose to his feet. I rose to mine, in complete fangirl hysterics. Lin-Manuel smiled and humbly waved at the adoring crowd, his genuine spirit palpable. It lasted all of 10 seconds, maybe 20. He then sat back down and snapped a selfie with the lucky lady sharing his armrest. Can. You. Imagine.

We all tried to play it cool, knowing the man himself was sitting right there as the curtain rose on his own masterpiece. Getting swept up in Hamilton takes all of two seconds — “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman…” It took my friends and I hours to digest all the things we loved and felt about this show, and while I won’t subject you to each and every nuance, I can’t fathom writing a traditional review either. There’s no point. You already know it’s going to be all fawning and flattery. So instead, for the sake of my personal memory bank, I’ll share some of what struck me most. 

First, there’s the visual spectacle, which all the incessant listening and lyric-memorizing in the world couldn’t have prepared me for. The delicious cocktail that is Hamilton’s Tony award-winning choreography, lighting design, scenic design, and costume design gives the audience a buzz like no other. The action is non-stop. There’s so much happening on the rotating stage that it’s hard to know where to look — in the best way. The dancers' movements are modern and precise, often framing the scene, acting as props, or serving to bring physical props on and off stage with artful grace.

One of the most effective and riveting bits of choreography is the manipulation of time throughout the show. Dancers reel backward to suggest a rewinding of time, move in slow-motion to suspend moments in time, and freeze to halt the clock altogether, giving certain doomed characters more time than they’d otherwise have. It’s spell-binding. 

What I noticed first about the lighting is the way in which it serves to highlight the strong curves of the dancers’ bodies and their cream-colored costumes. There are moments when the blinding white of the illuminated troupe beautifully punctuates the scene. The second thing to note about lighting is the way it highlights key moments in the story — mainly death. There’s a single bright light on Philip following his duel, reminiscent of the death of Enjolras and Gavroche in Les Miserables. And the final moment of the show hinges entirely on a bright, heaven-sent light shining down on Eliza — an inspired and unspeakably moving finish. 

Seeing Hamilton as a whole work of art, it becomes so much more than voices on a recording. The experience of it flows so effortlessly that time positively flies and you wish that, like the actors on stage, you too could manipulate the minutes and make them last. 

Reflecting back, it struck my friends and I that the first and second halves of the show differ entirely in tone — the first feeling lighter and full of promise, and the second delivering a slew of tender, tearful moments. What’s remarkable is the way in which Lin-Manuel Miranda paced these moments, never failing to keep up the energy of the show. He even winks at the audience when things are feeling a little too bleak: “Can we get back to politics? — Please!” 

While I could go on and on about Hamilton in the abstract sense, I have to close with a shout out to the phenomenal Chicago cast. Miguel Cervantes, be still my heart. Pure-voiced with the perfect blend of smarts and swagger, the man is a quintessential Alexander Hamilton. Sorry Lin-Manuel, but Cervantes wins this rap battle! We also swooned for Ari Afsar, whose softer take on Eliza hit all the right notes. 

Chris De’Sean Lee, Wallace Smith, and José Ramos as Lafayette & Jefferson, Mulligan & Madison, and Laurens & Philip, respectively, killed it. I’ve got a new place in my heart for “The Story of Tonight” thanks to those fine gentleman. Finally, I’ve gotta give it up for Alexander Gemingnani, our pouty, petulant King George. This is a character whose delivery remains mostly a mystery when just listening to the original cast recording; seeing the expressions and twitches from Gemingnani made an already-funny part all the more hilarious. 

It’s safe to say I’ll never forget my first time. I mean, as if the show wasn’t unforgettable enough on its own merits, there’s also the Lin-Manuel Miranda factor. It blows my mind that I’ll always be able to say that the first time I saw Hamilton, Lin-Manuel was there. And I truly see this as just the first of many Hamilton viewings. After all, this show is going to run forever. I like to consider the very last lines Eliza sings as a sort of invitation for us all: “Oh I can’t wait to see you again — it’s only a matter of time.” 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Ursa

Home, apothecary & lifestyle boutique in Bay View


I recently wandered into one of Bay View's newer storefronts, Ursa. I have to say, it's a breath of fresh air for Milwaukee's shop-local scene. The gorgeous, historic King building, located on KK next door to Bay View's Public Library, invites you in with its floor-to-ceiling windows and a lofted ceiling. The vibe is at once airy and welcoming - a spacious environment you'll be glad to get lost in. 




Following an impeccable first impression, enter the merch itself. Countless treasures await at this Bay View boutique — jewelry, vintage clothing, home décor, pottery & planters, wall art, soaps & scrubs. Yet the place isn't cluttered. Rather, you you feel you can breathe, take your time browsing, and ride with Ursa's thoughtful flow.




That's the key word really: Thoughtful. I got the sense that Ursa's goodies are highly curated and placed throughout the interior with intention. It's refreshing. I was actually lucky enough to chat a bit with owner Emily Kopplin during my pop-in, and she confirmed my suspicions — thoughtful is the name of the game. 




Emily told me that while some local artists are indeed represented, that's not Ursa's main objective. There are other shops in the area — like Waxwing and Sparrow Collective, to name a couple — who already make local artists their mission. Ursa isn't out to compete with that, rather compliment it by showcasing artists, designers, and collections that Emily feels are under-represented in the Milwaukee community. 




I'm a big fan of what Emily has set out to bring to Bay View. It's a veritable recipe for fresh finds that will keep Milwaukeeans coming back for more. With Christmas shopping just around the corner, I'll be stopping back at Ursa for sure. It's a breeze to shop local when there are quality boutiques like this one on the map. Check it out! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain drives, yodeling cowboys & ghost sightings


After spending a handful of days near Colorado Springs with my Uncle Jack this September, my family said goodbye to Crockett the dog and Whiskey the horse, crammed ourselves and our luggage into the rental car, and drove the almost-three hours to Estes Park. For the last four nights of our Colorado trip, we hung our hats at the Ridgeview Lodge, a VRBO located within walking distance to downtown Estes. Loved staying there — would absolutely stay again!



En route to Estes, we stopped in Nederland to stretch our legs and enjoy some coffee and pastries. The town is very small, but it's a cute spot to escape the car and walk around for a bit. 

When we got to Estes, we settled into the VRBO, bummed around Elkhorn Ave (the town's main street), and worked up an appetite for an early dinner. We headed for Mary's Lake Lodge, which my dear friend and Estes aficionado, Rachel, had recommended. In fact, we have Rachel to thank for lots of our Estes memories, as they came from her suggestions. So thanks, Rach!



Mary's Lake Lodge was one such suggestion, due to its gorgeous view from the patio and yummy beer list. Mary's did not disappoint — but make sure to bring a jacket. That mountain wind can blow a little chilly around sunset.



After a solid night's sleep, we laced up our boots and headed out for real Rocky Mountain hike. Remember to pack: Water, trail snacks, sunscreen, and layers. Following Rachel's advice for pretty views and relatively-easy walking, we took the trail that hit Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The main parking lot fills up early, but there is overflow parking with shuttles running regularly to the trailhead.



Hands down, this hike was my favorite thing we did in Estes. I can't get over the postcard-perfect views of far-off peaks, shimmering aspens, rushing streams, towering evergreens, and glassy mountain lakes — three of them! It was unreal. I understand now why some people would rather hike alone. The freedom it affords you to just pause and take it all in, to move as fast or as slow from minute to minute, must be nice. I wish I'd had many more minutes on the Emerald Lake trail — but hiking with family isn't so bad either.

Post-hike, we needed a nap. And after a nap, we needed tacos and avocado margaritas from Ed's Cantina & Grill. Tip of the hat to Rachel for telling us about avocado margaritas. They may sound off-putting, but really the avocado just brings a creaminess to a blended marg that's a little bit of heaven. Our favorite tacos: pork with grilled pineapple salsa — yum!

On our second full day in Estes, after sleeping off the margs, it was time to drive Trail Ridge Road, the highest road in the U.S. While we could have stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center and turned around, the fam decided to keep on keepin' all the way to Grand Lake — about a two-hour drive from Estes.



We had our sights set on lunch and bopping around another little mountain town. Unfortunately, lunch was just okay and the whole main street was under noisy construction. C'est la vie! Regardless, Grand Lake itself was gorgeous, and the town was super cute, despite the main drag being blown to smithereens.



After driving back to Estes and succumbing to more naps, it was time for our date with ghostly destiny. My mom booked us a night tour at the Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King's The Shining. Was it a super-scary tour? Not really. So if that's your angle, you may be a bit disappointed.



But I'm not someone who gets a pleasant thrill from being scared, so it worked for me that our tour guide was a real hoot. He told some great ghost stories, some firsthand experiences, and let us in on the history of the hotel — all fascinating. I say it's worth the price of admission, even if you don't leave feeling spooked.



Our last day in Estes started with a parade. It was the annual Scottish Irish Highland Festival, and a huge parade of Scottish clans and musicians came bagpiping down Elkhorn Ave for a solid hour or more. The turnout was seriously impressive — who knew such Highland pride existed in the Rockies?



We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon lunching and browsing at various shops — candy shops, shops with tourist swag, and my absolute favorite: a coffee and card shop called Inkwell & Brew. I think I could live there very happily. We also stopped at the Rachel-recommended Kind Coffee, an adorable spot with delicious drinks and some of the best pumpkin bread I've ever had.



To cap off our final night in Colorado, things got campy. We'd booked a table at the Lazy B Chuckwagon & Show. What's that? It's a cowboy dinner theater where you eat brisket, pulled pork, baked beans, buttermilk biscuits, baked potatoes, and peaches from a can. The night is emceed by cowboys telling dad jokes, and in the middle of the show you can dress up in cowboy garb and snap some pics.



Told you it was camp! But it was also plenty entertaining. Yes, the jokes were silly and some were at the expense of young whippersnappers (anyone under 35), but the music was legitimately good. The troupe played a slew of cowboy standbys, yodeling, foot-tapping, and fiddling away — with lovely voices to boot. It was pretty remarkable to find such real talent in a cowboy dinner theater — who knew!?



Bottom line, if you can check your pretensions at the door, then the Lazy B is a terrific way to bid a fond farewell to Estes Park. Add it to the memory bank! Happy trails, y'all.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Canyons, mountains, goats & giraffes — and cake! 


Back in September, the family and I had a weeklong date with the wide blue yonder. We spent eight days in Colorado, staying near Colorado Springs with my Uncle Jack — and his horse Whiskey, dog Crockett, and cat Steve — for the front half the trip, then trekking to Estes Park for the tail end.



On our first night in town, we piled into the rental car and drove to Old Colorado City, a charming town on the west side of Colorado Springs. There's a quaint main street, Colorado Avenue, lined with boutiques, galleries, and watering holes. We bopped around for a bit before heading to the evening's main event: the Sky Sox.



The baseball game was a hoot, mainly because my Uncle Jack is one of those uncles with a seemingly never-ending stash of antics. As my brother Kevin pointed out though, whoever built the little stadium got it all wrong — the view from the bleachers faces the parking lot, not the mountains. Welcome to Colorado, hope you didn't want to look at it! Food and drink, as one might expect at a ballpark, is overpriced. But despite the lack of view or affordable eats, we enjoyed ourselves, and the crowd sure got into it.




On Day Two, we hit up Castlewood Canyon State Park. We hiked the trails, stopped in the shade to share snacks, water, and reapply sun screen, and even got to freak out with fellow hikers over a rattlesnake sighting.



Speaking of being spooked by the local wildlife, have you ever seen a wolf spider? I have. Cross my heart, it was the size of a mouse. This one was sitting on Uncle Jack's front stoop one night. The shrieking that ensued (from all members of my family), Uncle Jack fumbling for the keys to get in the front door, my dad eventually whacking said wolf spider with a broom — it was a truly slapstick, hysterical scene. But only because we lived to tell the tale. 

Day Three was actually Labor Day, and we decided to spend it with pizza in Idaho Springs and a winding drive up to the top of Mount Evans. We first tried going to Echo Lake, but the parking lot was full, so we were outta luck. Next time: Go early. Really early.



We consoled ourselves with pizza at Beau Jo's — pizza everyone on the interweb raves about. We left feeling that the pizza was good, not great. The big selling point is that the thick crust becomes a breadstick that you can dip in honey. Perhaps a novel idea on paper, but...Shrug! Call me when there's cheese in the crust!




After pizza, we wound our way up to the top of Mount Evans, the kids in one car, Uncle Jack and my parents in another. Though we spied scary-beautiful views and a family of mountain goats en route, the drive sadly did not agree with my mom. A note on elevation: Stay mega hydrated and take preventative Ibuprofen. Even still, Mom was a trooper and found her smile for the family portrait.



Day Four was a big one. We started at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, then climbed the Will Rogers Shrine, then ate life-changing almond cake, then toured the Cave of the Winds, then finally basked in the golden hour at Garden of the Gods.

The zoo is pretty amazing, as it's set in the mountains. The highlight, hands down, was feeding the giraffes. What a goofy-looking bunch of flirts! Can we do this every day?



A trip to the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is actually included in the cost of zoo admission, so you'd be a dope not to take a short jaunt up the hill to the lookout tower. The view is worth it, and the tower is surrounded by a sea of trees and wildflowers.






When you're hungry for lunch in Colorado Springs, I can tell you this much: Go to Shuga's. It's where we dined after the Will Rogers Shrine and sweet heavens, it was divine. The place itself oozes eclectic charm, and the offerings leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the deliciousness available to you.




For drinks, we went for ginger lemonade, sweet mint iced tea, a strawberry lemon fizz, and a coconut ginger fizz. And there were about ten other equally tasty-sounding sippers on the menu. For food, we mostly got sandwiches — mine was the Phellini with tomato, goat cheese, and basil pesto on grilled rosemary bread. More please! And I couldn't say no to the house-made almond cake, which truly changed my life. I will find a copycat recipe, and that recipe and I will live happily ever after.






After lunch we drove over to the Cave of the Winds, which was nice enough, but a little pricy if you ask me. Also, I think maybe I'm just not really a cave girl — not when there are mountains and open sky to be seen above ground. But if caves are your thing, then you'd probably get a kick out of the Cave of the Winds.



Our final stop of the day was Garden of the Gods, where majestic red rock formations shoot out of the ground. It's like you've landed on another planet. Seeing them silhouetted in the dramatic, golden lighting of a sunset sky only amped up the otherworldly experience.



I would recommend visiting the Garden at magic hour for sure — but I'd also say you could easily spend a handful of hours walking around and taking it all in. While the paths are paved and very family-friendly, you can also go off-roading and climb some (not all) of the formations themselves. The Garden of the Gods was a seriously awe-inspiring way to end our stay in Colorado Springs. Next stop: Estes Park! 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Florentine Opera presents "The Merry Widow"

Lehár's delightful operetta romances Milwaukee 


As a sometimes-self-identifying Millennial, it may come as little surprise that opera is relatively new territory for me. I’ve grown up as a lover of musical theater, but classic opera is a whole other ball o’ wax. Mainstream media doesn’t exactly drop Verdi, Mozart, Lehár, or even Gilbert & Sullivan into one’s lap. I’ve had to seek out the experience of opera, going into it knowing that there’s a risk involved. A risk of disappointment and of the experience affirming what current trends seem to have decided for me: that opera’s rightful place is in the past. 

But thanks to Milwaukee’s splendid operatic offerings, I can now trumpet what I've experienced firsthand: that opera doesn’t have to be a dated, stuffy, or dying artform. If done well, classically-performed opera can move, excite, and delight today’s audiences — and that’s exactly what’s happening with the Florentine Opera Company’s production of Lehár’s The Merry Widow.

Founded in 1933, the Florentine Opera Company is Wisconsin’s oldest professional performing arts organization and the sixth-oldest opera company in the U.S. Every year, the company stages three grand productions at the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee, while also performing more intimate engagements in nearby Riverwest. The Merry Widow indeed falls on the grand end of the scale, with stunning Art Nouveau set design, lavish costumes, heavenly voices, and a thoughtful collaboration with the Milwaukee Ballet for both dancing and orchestral accompaniment. 

I’m personally wired to be partial to any narrative that takes place in Paris, and The Merry Widow does one better: it’s set in the Golden Age of Maxim’s with that idyllic “vie Parisienne.” Turn-of-the-century Paris is, in our collective nostalgia, a time of easy romance, the ruffled whirl of Can-Can skirts, and coquettish women in feathered hats & harem pants. What makes the Florentine’s Merry Widow so successful, before the singers even open their mouths, is the way in which this French essence springs to life on stage. In each of the opera’s three acts, eye-popping scenic and costume confections keep the audience riveted.



And then those aforementioned singers do open their mouths, and the sounds sweep you away all the more to another time and place — a time where the titular merry widow, Hanna, played by the radiant Alyson Cambridge, has inherited 20 million from her deceased husband and is now the most sought-after woman in all of Paris. The story is one of love and folly — one of those rather silly, surface-level comedies of will-they-won’t-they end up happily ever after. The music matches the story, with gorgeous arias, stirring duets, and jolly ensemble pieces to draw plenty of laughs. Cambridge embodies the effervescent widow, her eyes dancing as she delivers breathtaking notes of music with palpable magnetism. 

But I didn’t necessarily find myself lost in the particular woes and wishes of the characters themselves. Rather, I found the trick lies in allowing yourself to be caught up in the overall romance of the experience. It’s said that the Bel-canto style of singing — what the average ear thinks of as that classic, soaring, operatic tone — is all about the sensuous beauty of the human voice, and not “truth of expression.” That is to say: annunciation.



There’s a reason why even an opera performed in English, such as The Merry Widow, also has supertitles flashing on a screen above the stage. I admit, at first I found it rather distracting. They’re singing in English — shouldn’t I be able to understand it? I kept glancing at the supertitles and missing the nuance on stage, unsure as to what was more important — the content of the lyrics or the actors’ delivery. 

I eventually landed on delivery as a way to embrace the bel-canto singing model and appreciate the sounds in all their beauty, rather than in their ability to perfectly narrate the story. Dance interludes performed by members of the Milwaukee Ballet also served to pace the singing, adding another layer of enjoyment to the evening. I left The Merry Widow feeling light and, well, merry — a testament to the Florentine Opera’s mission: “If our song has stopped one heart from aching we have not lived in vain.” 

*Photos courtesy of Kathy Wittman