Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Lyric Opera’s The Merry Widow, emphatically set in Paris on the eve of the 20th century, opened 24 hours after last week’s terrorist attack there. With the body count still being tallied, the atmosphere at the Civic Opera House was subdued. The audience stood and sang as the orchestra played “La Marseillaise” before curtain, and when the scene called for fireworks over Montmartre, complete with explosive sound effects, it was impossible not to be reminded of the real-world carnage.

There are problems with this very traditional production, directed by Broadway’s Susan Stroman, that go beyond those horrific circumstances: most notably, a new English translation that dumbs down the already fluffy story, and some wooden acting, even from debonair leading man Thomas Hampson. But Renée Fleming, as the widow, looks and sounds lovely, and Franz Lehár’s melodic score is delicious, if bittersweet. Like Paris now, it’s best taken with a liberal dose of alcohol.

Nicole Cabell will replace Fleming in the last three performances. 

The Merry Widow Through 12/13: Fri 11/20, Mon 11/23, Wed 11/25, and Sat 11/28, 7:30 PM; Sat 12/3, Wed 12/9, Fri 12/11, and Sun 12/13, 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244,, $34-$259.