Opera Scotland

Merry Widow The Merry Widow; Die lustige Witwe

Music
Franz Lehár (born Komorn, 30 April 1870; died Bad Ischl, 24 October 1948)

Text
Viktor Léon & Leo Stein

Source
Play L’attaché d’ambassade (1861) by Henri Meilhac.

Premieres
First performance: Vienna (Theater an der Wien), 30 December 1905.
First UK performance: London (Daly’s Theatre), 8 June 1907.
First performance in Scotland: To be confirmed (1908).
Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), June 19 1973.

Background
Lehár dominated the world of Viennese operetta in the early years of the twentieth century. His father was a military bandmaster in the Austro-Hungarian army, and that was the route Lehár followed in his early career. It took several years before he achieved success as a composer, first with his famous Gold and Silver waltz, then, after several failures, with his operetta The Merry Widow. These two items have remained universally popular. While he continued to produce theatre works for the rest of his life, and had several successes, nothing approached the quality or success attained by The Merry Widow, which is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Its only possible rival as the greatest of the Viennese operettas is Die Fledermaus.

Characters
Baron Mirko Zeta, Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris (bass)
Valencienne, Zeta’s wife (soprano)
Count Danilo Danilowitsch, First Secretary at the Embassy (baritone)
Camille de Rosillon (tenor)
Hanna Glawari, a wealthy widow (soprano)
Vicomte Cascada (baritone)
Raoul de St Brioche (tenor)
Njegus, an Embassy Secretary (spoken)

Plot Summary
The mythical Balkan state of Pontevedro is suffering a financial crisis following the death of a multimillionaire banker, Glawari. His wealth dominates the nation’s economy, and has been inherited by his beautiful young widow, Hanna. She is visiting Paris, and Baron Zeta, the Ambassador to France, has been instructed to ensure that she does not marry a foreigner. Danilo, an attaché at the embassy is ordered to serve his country by marrying the widow – Zeta is not aware that Hanna and Danilo had been very close before her marriage and that Danilo is rather sensitive on the subject. Camille, an impoverished French aristocrat is seen as the main rival for Hanna’s affections, but he is more interested in Zeta’s attractive young wife Valencienne. While the happy outcome is never in doubt, the attraction of the operetta comes from the clever execution of the plot by which Hanna and Danilo are brought together, and the endless stream of varied melodies Lehár provides.

The Cast

Baron Mirko Zeta
 Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris
Bogdanowitsch
 Pontevedrian Consul
Camille de Rosillon
 
Clo-Clo
 a grisette
Count Danilo Danilowitsch
 Secretary to the legation, reserve cavalry lieutenant
Do-Do
 a grisette
Frou-Frou
 a grisette
Hanna Glawari
 a wealthy young widow
Jou-Jou
 a grisette
Kromow
 Counsellor to the Pontevedrian legation
Lo-Lo
 a grisette
Margot
 a grisette
Njegus
 Chancery Clerk at the Embassy
Olga
 wife of Kromow
Praskowia
 wife of Pritschitsch
Pritschitsch
 retired Pontevedrian colonel, Military Attaché
Raoul de St Brioche
 
Sylviane
 wife of Bogdanowitsch
Valencienne
 Zeta's wife
Vicomte Cascada
 

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