Monday Magazine contributor
After breaking our hearts in February with La Traviata, Pacific Opera Victoria breaks out the bubbly and puts on a party hat with Countess Maritza, an effervescent charmer from what’s known as the Silver Age of Viennese Operetta.
The second great success of Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán, Countess dates from 1924 and is a classic romantic comedy with a twisty plot full of deceptions and misunderstandings that inevitably culminates with loving hearts and a happy ending.
The star of the show is Kálmán’s gorgeous music, featuring a buoyant fusion of Viennese waltz with Hungarian folk tunes. Very much influenced by both Puccini and Tchaikovsky, Kálmán was a skilled composer whose many operettas brought him worldwide fame and a stature equivalent to that of Franz Lehar, the other great 20th-century master of these elegant musical confections.
The plot, worthy of a screwball comedy, centres on the bewitching Countess Maritza, a young widow who is so tired of the attentions of a multitude of pesky suitors that in order to get some peace she has invented an entirely fictional fiancé. But when she decides to throw a fancy dinner party at her country estate, the complications begin to pile up.
Most notably, along comes a Baron who is indulging his curiosity, insofar as he shares the identical name as the Countess’s supposed fiancé. Enchanted by the Countess, the Baron quickly shows an alarming interest in marrying this woman he has just met.
Further intrigue arrives in the person of a seemingly lowly bailiff, in actuality an impoverished Count who is working incognito to earn a dowry for his lovely sister, Lisa. Add in a gypsy fortune teller, then stir the pot with some gentle schemings and romantic misalliances, and the stage is set for a nostalgic, old-fashioned and highly entertaining evening of captivating music and fizzy frivolity.
Countess Maritza runs April 25 to May 5 at the Royal Theatre. For tickets, visit rmts.bc.ca, call 250-386-6121 or drop by the Royal or McPherson theatre box office.