Mini City Review: Opera Saratoga's “The Merry Widow”

by Jennifer VanDerwerken

One evening last summer, my husband and I were walking through Spa State Park on our way to a concert at SPAC when we heard a sound that stopped us both in our tracks. Somewhere inside The Spa Little Theater, an opera singer was warming up, running through her octaves in a crystal clear tone that traveled right outside the building to the grounds as we passed. We were both completely wowed. “I want to go to an Opera someday,” I said.

I got to tick that particular item off my bucket list last Friday night at “Opera Saratoga” and it more than met my “Pretty Woman”, “Age of Innocence”, “Moonstruck” -influenced expectations. We attended a performance of “The Merry Widow”, a funny, charming opera by Franz Lehar first performed in 1905 that any fan of the modern day rom-com would enjoy.


I chose to go into the performance blind--I didn’t want to know anything about the plot in advance. I was curious to see how much of the story and tone could be conveyed to an opera novice through the music and acting alone, and we were thrilled to find that the plot was as easy to follow as any film. And while the singing was crisp and sharp and the lyrics easy to understand, there is also a screen with subtitles above the stage so you can catch every word.

The talent of the performers cannot be overstated. Their powerful and beautiful voices project all the way to the back of the theater (of which there is no bad seat) and convey all of the emotion and humor that the story demands. I couldn't help but admire the sheer athleticism of their jobs, as dance is an important aspect of this particular opera. I was completely swept up in the drama of the unfolding plot, and invested in the happiness of the quirky characters as they fumbled their way to their respective happy endings.


The Spa Little Theater in itself is lovely and offers very reasonable concessions during the intermissions, and helpful ushers to get you to your seat and answer any questions. One important thing to note: Budget for lots of extra travel time should you attend the opera on a night when there is also a SPAC performance. We were caught up in the general traffic heading to the Imagine Dragons concert, and while the Spa Little Theater has its own very convenient separate parking lot, it will take time to get through the park.

The Saratoga summer offers no end of fun date night options as we all know, but I strongly suggest an evening at Opera Saratoga as an alternative to the typical “dinner and a movie” for any couple. It’s a chance to dress up a bit, absorb a truly rarified musical experience, and support our thriving local arts community.

My husband and I really enjoyed our Opera Saratoga experience. It was a first time event for both of us, and as my favorite marriage expert Esther Perel advises, novel experiences are like human growth hormone for your relationship. Do something new to both of you, and get swept up in it together.

It’s also just really fun to tell someone, “Oh, I can’t tonight. I’m sorry. I’m going to the opera.”

The Opera Saratoga season lasts until July 15. For a schedule of performances, tickets, and other information visit