Original Book by Victor Leon and Leo Stein
Choreography by Ronald Hynd
Production and Scenario by Robert Helpmann
Music by Franz Lehár
Orchestration by John Lanchbery
Scenery and Costumes by Desmond
Lighting by Michael J. Whitfield
Assistants to Mr. Hynd: Annette Page and John Meehan
Act 1 - 36:00
Act 2 - 28:00
Act 3 - 23:00
The Merry Widow was given its World Premiere by The Australian
Ballet at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne on November 13, 1975, danced
by Marilyn Rowe (Hanna Glawari) and John Meehan (Count Danilo Danilowitch).
The Merry Widow was given its American Ballet Theatre Company
Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York on June 6, 1997,
danced by Susan Jaffe (Hanna Glawari) and Jose Manuel Carreno (Count
Act I, Scene 1: It
is Paris in 1905.
The scene is set inside the Pontevedrian Embassy, where the staff is
busy preparing for a ball to be held that evening. Njegus, the ambassador's
personal aide, enters carrying a pile of debt notes drawn to finance
the ball. There is general lamentation about the country's precarious
financial situation. Pontevedro is a tiny state situated deep in the
Balkans. The country can ill afford to pay for such an extravagant diplomatic
mission in Paris, but the governing aristocrats are notorious free-spenders.
The ambassador, Baron Mirko Zeta, and his young French wife, Valencienne,
enter. They are accompanied by Camille de Rosillon, a dashing French
diplomat. A telegram arrives that announces that the beautiful Hanna
Glawari, a recently widowed Pontevedrian, will be attending the ball
that evening. Hanna is worth 20 million francs and, reportedly, is seeking
a new husband. However, should she marry a foreigner, Pontevedro would
lose the benefit of her wealth and, most certainly, slide into bankruptcy.
The First Secretary of the Embassy, Count Danilo Danilowitch, is considered
a prospective suitor for the young widow. Such a match is thought to
be ideal, as the widow's wealth would then remain in Pontevedro.
The Frenchman Camille and the Ambassador's wife are left alone. His
is passionately in love with her, but Valencienne maintains her virtue;
she will not be easily seduced and plays hard to get, although she is
tempted. Njegus enters and interrupts the couple at a tender moment.
First Secretary Danilo then enters in a somewhat drunken state. Njegus
attempts to explain to him that he should try to marry Hanna, but Danilo
falls asleep. The Ambassador returns and orders his aide Njegus to ensure
that Danilo is sober for the ball. It is imperative that Danilo make
a good impression on the wealthy widow that night.
Act I, Scene 2: The scene is set in the Pontevedrian Embassy
The beautiful widow Hanna Glawari arrives and the handsome Danilo Danilowitch
is presented to her. They are shocked to recognize one another, having
been lovers in Pontevedro some ten years earlier. At that time Hanna
was a mere peasant girl with whom the aristocratic Danilo was infatuated.
However, his parents thought the relationship might be improper given
their different class positions and, in deference to his parents' wishes,
Danilo broke off the affair. Danilo is amazed to find that his old sweetheart
has turned into a glamorous and worldly woman. In his confusion, Danilo
mops his forehead with a handkerchief that Hanna recognizes as a keepsake
she gave him when they parted.
In a quiet moment Danilo attempts to explain himself and his love for
Hanna, but she brushes off his advances, declaring that what he really
loves now is her money. She then joins the other guests at supper. Danilo,
rebuffed, reminisces about their early romance in Pontevedro in a wonderful
dream scene in which he is reunited with the young Hanna of the past.
Following supper, the Ambassador invites the young widow to choose a
partner for the first dance. Hanna regrets her earlier rudeness to Danilo
and selects him. But, still smarting, he refuses. The Ambassador's wife,
Valencienne, urges the Frenchman Camille to dance with Hanna so as to
avoid an awkward scene. In the course of changing partners during the
dance, Hanna finds herself in the arms of Danilo. It is clear they are
still in love.
Act II: The scene is set several days after the ball in the garden
of the villa at which Hanna is staying.
Hanna is hosting a soiree to which the diplomatic elite of Paris is
invited. The guests celebrate with Pontevedrian national dances, led
by Hanna and Danilo.
Just before supper, the Ambassador arranges to meet later that evening
with Njegus and Danilo in order to discuss the latter's romantic success
with Hanna. Everything appears to being going well, and they enter to
join the dinner guests.
The Ambassador's wife, Valencienne, and the Frenchman Camille enter
the deserted garden for a moonlit tryst. Valencienne is quickly succumbing
to Camille's seduction, and they enter the garden pavilion. But, unbeknownst
to them, they are observed by Njegus. At this moment the Ambassador
and Danilo return to the scene, and, to their surprise, they witness
the adulterous romance while looking through the keyhole of the pavilion
door. Njegus locks the door to prevent the Ambassador from attacking
the couple. A struggle ensues for the key.
Hanna quietly appears on the scene and observes the situation. To protect
Valencienne from her husband, Hanna enters the pavilion through a side
door and takes the place of the Ambassador's wife, who quickly slips
away. When the Ambassador finally opens the door, he is amazed to see
that it is Hanna who was inside with Camille and not his wife. Hanna
then announces, to everyone's horror, that she plans to marry Camille.
Realizing that such a marriage will send their country into bankruptcy,
the Pontevedrians are able to offer only frigid congratulations. The
onlookers quickly depart. Danilo is dumbfounded and hesitates before
leaving. In a frenzy he throws the handkerchief that Hanna had long
ago given him at her feet, then storms off. Hanna picks up the handkerchief,
knowing the Danilo truly loves her.
Act III: The scene is set inside Maxim's, the legendary Parisian
The Pontevedrian diplomats of Paris have come to drown their sorrows
and to spend their last francs in the face of pending economic doom.
Camille arrives, hoping to find Valencienne and to remedy circumstances.
But Valencienne believes the marriage announcement is true. Everyone
jeers Camille. Hanna arrives and takes Camille's arm, which he is not
eager to offer. But such a display of affection is too much for Danilo
to bear. He comes forward and challenges Camille to a duel. Valencienne
cannot bear the idea of Camille being killed and so she intervenes,
along with Hanna. It is clear to everyone, including the Ambassador,
that Camille and Valencienne are in love.
Everyone finally leaves, except for Hanna, who is left, forlorn, without
a companion, her test of Danilo having gone too far. However, Danilo
quietly returns and embraces her in his penitent arms.