Cabell brings romantic spark and vocal gleam to Lyric’s “Merry Widow”

Thu Dec 10, 2015 at 11:05 am

By Wynne Delacoma

Nicole Cabell sang the title role in Lehar's "The Merry Widow" Wednesday at Lyric Opera.
Nicole Cabell sang the title role in Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” Wednesday at Lyric Opera.

The glamorous diva Renée Fleming has exited the environs of the Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris and the scandalously delightful Chez Maxim’s. But with Nicole Cabell taking over the leading role for the final three performances of The Merry Widow, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s lavish production of Franz Lehar’s beloved operetta has lost none of its light-hearted, sophisticated fizz.

An illustrious alumna of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, Cabell brought a supple soprano and an amused, worldly-wise demeanor to the role of Hanna Glawari, a rich young widow well aware that her fortune will draw lovers like bees to honey at Wednesday’s matinee performance. A slim beauty, dazzling in William Ivey Long’s elegant gowns and feathered hair ornaments, Cabell unleashed ringing top notes in the operetta’s more exuberant moments. But a hint of smoke and melancholy gave emotional depth to the folk-flavored serenade, “Vilja,” and Cabell’s romantic encounters with Thomas Hampson’s dashing Count Danilo.

Cabell found the fine line between cynicism and clear-eyed acceptance of how the world works, and the sparks that flared between Hanna and Danilo enlivened the entire production. This merry widow was not born yesterday, but she was open to the hope that true love could arrive tomorrow.

The Merry Widow will be repeated 2 p.m. Friday and Sunday.; 312-827-5600.

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