The Merry Widow
Following is a synopsis with photographs of Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow. Photos are from the production staged by Central Florida Lyric Opera at the Helen Stairs Theater in Sanford, Florida March 15, 2003. Elizabeth Harmetz sang the role Valencienne.
Originally written in German under the name Die Lustige Witwe, The Merry Widow only gained popularity in the states when it was translated into English. Taking place in fin-de-siècle Paris, the operetta peeks into an effervescent world filled with waltzes, folk tales, sentimentality and naughty fun.
Composer: Franz Lehár
Baron Mirko Zeta worries that Pontrevedian is under threat of imminent crisis. Hanna Glawari, the Merry Widow, is a recent widow and the duchy's wealthiest citizen and must not marry a foreigner or financial ruination will result for Pontrevedian. Ignoring the vying suitors the Baron decides the country's most eligible bachelor and prime marrying material is the aloof Count Danilo Danilovich.
Unbeknownst to the Baron, Count Danilo had loved Hanna once and values that love more than the pursuit of precious coins. Mirko declares it's Danilo's patriotic duty to court, woo and marry the wealthy widow but the count demurs. Mirko the matchmaker resolves to save the country and get them together.
Amidst her husbands matchmaking and facilitated by her husbands patriotic fervor, The Barons wife Valencienne is being only slightly resistant "I am a dutiful wife" to the flirtations of a persistent French officer named Camille de Rosillon.
The Merry Widow, Hanna, celebrates at her house with an authentic Pontrevedian party in which she sings of a woodland sprite who falls in love with a mortal man "Vilya" and reveals her affection for Count Danilo.
Valencienne, smitten with her handsome Frenchman, hesitatingly decides to break off their affair and suggests that Camille should marry Hanna- but not before an evening spent alone with him in the summerhouse.
The Baron, spying through the summerhouse's keyhole, thinks he has seen his wife and demands entrance. While a crowd gathers Njegus deftly rescues Valencienne out the back and when the front door opens out steps the Frenchman Camille with.. Hanna! To the personal confusion and patriotic horror of Mirko and the jealousy and grief of Count Danilo, Hanna and the Frenchman feign their love and announce that they are to be married. The lovelorn and frustrated Count Danilo plans to escape to his favorite Parisian cabaret, Maxim's.
Hanna, still eager to woo her old love, recreates Maxim's at her estate- complete with the cancan dancers. Njegus performs as host at the charade while Valencienne steps forward and stars as a Grissette. The party is a success!
Danilo receives a telegram declaring Pontevedro will be in ruin if Hanna removes her money from the treasury and prohibits her marriage to Camille. Meanwhile the Baron convinces himself that it was his wife who was in the summerhouse. He proposes to Hanna. Hanna reveals that under the terms of her late husbands will she forfeits her fortune when she remarries. With money out of the way Count Danilo's decides to finally perform the duty that he couldn't bear before. He resolves to marry Hanna for the sake of the country. Hanna accepts and reveals that she never meant to marry Camille. She announces that she forfeits her fortune... to her new husband. Count Danilo accepts his fate and acknowledges his love for the Merry Widow but now Mirko has again been provoked to suspect his wife's fidelity. Valencienne's careful and modest forethought of writing "I am a respectable wife" on her fan convinces and the Baron forgives his wife and salutes women and their unpredictable ways.
DRAMATIS PERSONAE / CHARACTERS:
Action takes place in Pontevedro or the Pontrevedrian embassy in Paris. Pontevedro is a veiled reference to the Baltic state Montenegro.
Merry Widow video. For a limited time, click below for a streaming video of Valencienne and Camille's Act I duet. Choose RealVideo or Windows Media and your broadband connection speed :
(Images courtesy of and used with permission of Central Florida Lyric Opera © 2003.)