Die lustige Witwe
DIE LUSTIGE WITWE OR THE MERRY WIDOW, A BEAUTIFUL OPERETTA
Franz Lehár's classic light opera is a comedic work focusing on eternal themes of romance, financial interest and personal happiness.
The Austro-Hungarian composer's work was originally scripted in German and was known as Die lustige Witwe. Based on Henri Meilhac's 1861 comedy play L'attaché d'ambassade, the operetta could be said to be a truly European work. Since its rapturous Vienna première in 1905, the work has seen countless translations, adaptations and revivals. The French La veuve Joyeuse and the English 'The Merry Widow' are among the best known of these alternate versions.
The light comedy opera of Die lustige Witwe is set in the French capital of 1905. The story focuses on the attempts by the nobility of the fictional province of Pontevedro to secure the riches of the widow in question, a Hanna Glawari. Making great use of situational comedy, misunderstandings and awkward chance meetings, the opera features a host of memorable scenes and musical pieces that remain just as popular today as they were over a hundred years ago.
The first act of Die lustige Witwe sets up the central problems of the whole piece. The wealthy widow Hanna and attaché to the ambassador Danilo Danilovitsch are still in love from a youthful affair that took place before Hanna's marriage. However, neither of them can admit it, as Danilo does not wish to be labelled as a gold hunter and Hanna will only marry him when she hears the words 'I love you'.
The second act takes place during a grand Pontevedrian costume party at Hanna's Paris mansion. Another set of possible lovers takes the stage, the ambassador Zeta's much younger wife Valencienne and the French Count de Rosillon, Camille. When these two are caught enjoying a brief rendezvous, Hanna bravely switches places with Valencienne and declares her love for Camille. Danilo overhears this and storms off in rage to his favourite Paris bistro, Maxim's.
Hoping to lure Danilo back to her, Hanna transforms her home into the interior design of Maxim's. When he arrives she confesses that her engagement to Camille was a bluff and they both declare their love for each other. Valencienne meanwhile manages to convince Zeta of her fidelity, while Hanna joyfully declares that her fortune will be given over to her next husband, the delighted Danilo.
Hanna Glawari, a wealthy widow, soprano
Count Danilo Danilovitsch, First Secretary
of the embassy and Hanna's former lover, tenor or lyric baritone
Baron Mirko Zeta, the Ambassador, baritone
Valencienne, Baron Zeta's wife, soprano
Camille, Count de Rosillon, French attaché
to the embassy, the Baroness's admirer, tenor
Njegus, the Embassy Secretary, spoken
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