Project Description

The Merry Widow

Operetta | Composer: Franz Lehar | Librettists: Viktor Leon, Leo Stein

  • 6 December (Fri), 7:45PM
  • 7 December (Sat), 2:30PM / 7:45PM
  • 8 December (Sun), 2:30PM

Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients (limited tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis).

10% off for every purchase of 10 – 19 standard tickets; 15% off for 20 or more standard tickets.

Patrons can enjoy only one of the above discount schemes for each purchase. Please inform the box office staff at the time of purchase.

Runtime: 2 hrs 45 mins, with two 15-min intermission.
Language: English  | Surtitle: Chinese / English

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Viennese operetta, both in its theatrical form and musical structure, was strongly influenced by the French opera bouffe developed by Jacques Offenbach. Its roots can be traced to the German Singspiel and the Italian opera buffa, of which Mozart and Rossini were, respectively, the most famous exponents. As entertainment for the prosperous Viennese public, operetta enjoyed a wide popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century. A number of works by talented composers such as Franz von Suppé and Johann Strauss II reach a very high artistic standard. The latter, with his exceptional gift for high society dance music, especially his splendid waltzes, created a work of lasting appeal, Die Fledermaus, in 1874. It was Franz Lehár, a generation later in 1905, who brought to the world an immortal masterpiece, Die Lustige Witwe, the universally acclaimed The Merry Widow.

The unrivalled success of The Merry Widow is primarily due to Lehár’s creative originality which is unique in the realm of light music. The whole work presents an unrelenting succession of wonderful melodies that are at once mellifluous, refreshing, witty, expressive and full of vitality. These songs, dances ensembles and choruses are not just attractive tunes. These compositions infused with ingenious harmony, counterpoint and orchestration. The music fits the characters and situations perfectly. Its energy and natural flow enhance the development of the story. The librettists Léon and Stein based their text on a French comedy but invented many crafty turns of events and introduced a Balkan background into a carefree Parisian atmosphere which provided Lehár with the opportunity of making brilliant use of ethnic colours and fashionable dance rhythms. Unlike many other operettas, the plot of The Merry Widow is not frivolous nor absurd but progresses logically with subtle and they behave with understandable motivations and emotions.

Synopsis

Act I

Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris

Baron Zeta, envoy of the small Balkan state Pontevedro, is giving a party to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s Sovereign Prince. Anna Glawari, the rich and attractive widow, is his special guest. All the male guests are eager to win her favours. If Anna remarries a foreigner, her enormous wealth will be taken out of Pontevedro. This will cause the nation to go bankrupt. Zeta must ensure that Anna’s future second husband shall be a Pontevedrian. With the help of the Embassy Chief Clerk Njegus, the Baron encourages Count Danilo, First Secretary of the envoy, to woo the charming widow for the sake of the fatherland.

Anna and Danilo already know each other. When she was a poor farmer’s daughter and he was a young cavalry officer, they had been deeply in love with each other. The romance ended because Danilo’s aristocratic family objected to Anna’s low social status. That status she was able to change overnight by marrying the banker Glawari, who died and left her a huge fortune. Anna and Danilo now meet again with strange mixed feelings. When Anna complains that all the men who declare their affection are in truth after her money, Danilo immediately vows that he will never utter his love for her. However, Danilo successfully manoeuvres away the crowd of men surrounding Anna, and the two start to dance the waltz.

Act II

Anna’s Garden Party

Anna hosts a garden party which features Pontevedrian folk costumes, songs and dance. Baron Zeta’s young wife Valencienne is hotly pursued by the infatuated aristocrat Camille de Rosillon who repeatedly declares his love for her despite the fact that she is respectably married.

With a tender love song, Camille persuades Valencienne to join him in the enclosed pavilion of the garden. Spying through the keyhole, Zeta, to his horror, identifies his own wife inside. Anna comes to the rescue by entering the pavilion through the back door and quickly replaces Valencienne as Camille’s rendezvous partner.

In the confusion that follows Anna announces her engagement to Camille, Danilo storms off in a feat of jealousy. Anna now knows that Danilo loves her.

Act III

Maxime’s of Paris

Anna’s next party takes place in the charming cabaret restaurant of Maxime’s. The guests enjoy a spectacular performance of the Gold and Silver Waltz. Danilo seeks to forbid Anna to marry Camille and is relieved when she tells him that she never intended to do so. Now they can no longer disguise their love for each other. With the nation’s financial well-being assured, everyone joins in a rousing chorus about the difficulty of understanding women.

Cast

₍₁₎ 6-7/12, 7:45PM  |  ₍₂₎ 7-8/12, 2:30PM
^ With kind permission of Hong Kong Ballet

Creative Team

Director’s Note

An Immortal Masterpiece of Viennese Operetta

Viennese operetta, both in its theatrical form and musical structure, was strongly influenced by the French opéra bouffe developed by Jacques Offenbach. Its roots can be traced to the German Singspiel and the Italian opera buffa, of which Mozart and Rossini were, respectively, the most famous exponents. As entertainment for the prosperous Viennese public, operetta enjoyed a wide popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century. A number of works by talented composers such as Franz von Suppé and Johann Strauss II reach a very high artistic standard. The latter, with his exceptional gift for high society dance music, especially his splendid waltzes, created a work of lasting appeal, Die Fledermaus, in 1874. It was Franz Lehár, a generation later in 1905, who brought to the world an immortal masterpiece, Die Lustige Witwe, the universally acclaimed The Merry Widow.

The unrivalled success of The Merry Widow is primarily due to Lehár’s creative originality which is unique in the realm of light music. The whole work presents an unrelenting succession of wonderful melodies that are at once mellifluous, refreshing, witty, expressive and full of vitality. These songs, dances, ensembles and choruses are not just attractive tunes. They are inspired compositions infused with ingenious harmony, counterpoint and orchestration. The music fits the characters and situations perfectly. Its energy and natural flow enhance the development of the story. The librettists Léon and Stein based their text on a French comedy but invented many crafty turns of events and introduced a Balkan background into a carefree Parisian atmosphere which provided Lehár the opportunity of making brilliant use of ethnic colours and fashionable dance rhythms. Unlike many other operettas, the plot of The Merry Widow is not frivolous nor absurd, but progresses logically with subtle sensibility and the characters behave with understandable motivations and truly believable emotions.

The unrivalled success of The Merry Widow is primarily due to Lehár’s creative originality which is unique in the realm of light music. The whole work presents an unrelenting succession of wonderful melodies that are at once mellifluous, refreshing, witty, expressive and full of vitality. These songs, dances, ensembles and choruses are not just attractive tunes. They are inspired compositions infused with ingenious harmony, counterpoint and orchestration. The music fits the characters and situations perfectly. Its energy and natural flow enhance the development of the story. The librettists Léon and Stein based their text on a French comedy but invented many crafty turns of events and introduced a Balkan background into a carefree Parisian atmosphere which provided Lehár the opportunity of making brilliant use of ethnic colours and fashionable dance rhythms. Unlike many other operettas, the plot of The Merry Widow is not frivolous nor absurd, but progresses logically with subtle sensibility and the characters behave with understandable motivations and truly believable emotions.

The Merry Widow has been filmed several times for the cinema screen. There are numerous complete recordings on compact discs and video versions available on global release.

Lo Kingman