The Merry Widow
The mission is clear – to get a widow married! But in such a way that her millions remain in the principality. There would be plenty of suitors, but Count Danilo, who’s in charge of the task, has already had a romantic dalliance with the widow Hana Glawari in the past. The affection is thus reciprocal, but so is the reluctance to admit that the old flame of love still burns. When you add other ingredients in the form of a party at an embassy in Paris, dancers from Maxim´s famous cabaret and witty dialogues, you have a complete set of ingredients for an excellent opera.
The librettist Leo Stein found the theme for The Merry Widow in the form of a French comedy which he accidentally discovered when browsing through a library during a visit. The nominated composer was not interested, so young Franz Lehár was chosen. If this was a stroke of fate, it turned out to be a very lucky one. Lehár, with a Hungarian mother and a Moravian father, had a feeling for melody, style and wit that was probably thanks to his mixed family heritage. Every number in The Merry Widow is a small musical gift, and melodies such as You´ll Find Me at Maxim´s, Vilja Song, and Women, Oh, Women quickly became famous. Lehár also achieved renown thanks to The Merry Widow, and today his opera is also part of the repertoire at the New York MET. The Merry Widow is returning to the Brno stage after almost thirty years, and will be staged by an experienced team. The director Magdalena Švecová, together with the choreographer Martin Pack and the artists Zuzana Přidalová and David Janošek, are the authors of previous great narrative productions of Ferdy the Ant and La bohème. You can look forward to experiencing the magic of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century in all its splendour.
Staged in a Czech translation with Czech, English and German subtitles
Premiere: 3rd February 2023 at the Janáček Theatre
Staged in a Czech translation with Czech, English and German subtitles.
145 min including 25 min pause.
The Ambassador of the Principality of Pontevedro, Baron Zeta, hosts a party at a Paris hotel. The reason is not only to celebrate the birthday of the monarch. Hanna Glawari, the widow of the Pontevedrine court banker who inherited twenty million from him, is also invited to the celebration. If she marries a Frenchman, Pontevedro will go bankrupt and it is Zeta’s job to ensure that the fortune stays in the country. The only way to do this is to marry Hanna off to a Pontevedrine citizen, and the choice falls to the First Secretary of the Embassy, Count Danilo. Although Secretary Negus successfully gets the Count to leave his favourite cabaret, Maxim’s, and come to the party, when he meets Hanna, it is revealed that the two are old friends. They were once in love, but Danilo listened to his uncle, who was against marrying a poor girl. Although the old love hasn’t rusted, Danilo refuses to court Hanna just because of her money, and she is also unwilling to forgive him for the old betrayal.
Although Baron Zeta thinks he never misses anything, he has no idea of his wife Valencienne’s relationship with Camille de Roussillon. But Valencienne loses the fan on which Camille wrote “I love you”. It is found by Kromow, who is convinced it belongs to his wife. Zeta prevents a jealous scene by getting Valencienne to pretend the fan is hers. But that doesn’t solve the lovers’ problem, because Zeta takes the fan. Valencienne tries to get Camillo to court Hanna. The ladies’ choice begins and Hanna is surrounded by suitors. Danilo may be absent, but he used the ladies to help him get rid of the other men vying for Hanna’s favor.
The celebration continues with Hanna singing an old Pontevedrine song about the fairy Vilje. Danilo still refuses to court Hanna, but promises to get rid of the French suitors. Zeta also assigns Danilo to find out who owns the fan he took from Kromow, still unaware that it is his own wife’s. Danilo didn’t figure it out either, but he reveals more affairs at the embassy. This gets rid of unwelcome suitors, but a nostalgic moment at the waltz is not enough to overcome the resistance of Hanna and Danilo. Negus gets Valencienne to break up with Camillo. She reluctantly agrees, but their parting is discovered by Baron Zeta and Danilo. Zeta is furious, but is surprised when Hanna comes out of the lovers’ hideout instead of his wife, announcing that she is engaged to Camillo.
Zeta is desperate because the hotel manager wants payment for the gala, but Pontevedro is on the verge of bankruptcy. Negus comes with the news that Hanna is paying the bill. She has gathered the grisette dancers, led by Valencienne, who was one of them before she married Zeta, and together they perform a number from the Maxim’s cabaret.
Danilo is not impressed by the cabaret scene and takes it as another provocation from Hanna. He attacks her about getting engaged to Camillo and the two part resentfully. They are stopped by Negus, who has finally run out of patience. With a few well-placed sentences, referring to Freud, he gets them to admit that they still love each other. Negus, satisfied, announces their engagement. Kromow is surprised that Danilo doesn’t mind Hanna’s previous engagement to Camillo. He announces that Hanna did it to provide an alibi for another married woman. Valencienne admits that it was her, but she cleverly turns the whole situation to her advantage and in the end it is Zeta himself who sends her to attend to Camillo. Everything worked out well and everyone got what they wanted.