The Merry Widow Synopsis


by Franz Lehar

ACT I - Setting: Pontevedrian Embassy, Paris, turn of the 20th Century

A diplomatic reception taking place at the Pontevedrian Embassy has been promulgated by Ambassador Zeta in the hopes that his Parisian guests will raise money on behalf of the insolvent nation of Pontevedro. Unperturbed that his lovely young wife, Valencienne, is flirting with dashing Camille de Rosillon,

the elderly pompous Baron Zeta assumes her behavior is intended only to further the Pontevedrian cause. Camille, however, has intentions other than the welfare of Pontevedro and inscribes "I love you" on Valencienne's fan--the subsequent loss of this fan will provide much contretemps in the next few days. Wealthy and attractive widow Hanna Glawari enters.

(Beverly Sills and men’s chorus)

Zeta proceeds with his plan that she should marry Danilo Danilovich, the Embassy Secretary, a charming libertine renowned for his dissolute behavior. Such a marriage would ensure the widow's fortune would remain in Pontevedro. Meanwhile, Valencienne is inconsolable that she has lost her fan which bears that indiscreet message from Camille. Now Danilo arrives from Maxim's, his usual haunt,

(I’m off to Chez Maxim’s; Jeffrey Black)

Danilo and Hanna reminisce about their mutual past. Although they were once deeply in love, Hanna, the daughter of a poor farmer, was considered unfit for marriage by Danilo's aristocratic family. Clearly the two are still in love, but Danilo refuses to acknowledge his feelings although he does promise Zeta that he will prevent any foreign fortune seekers from marrying Hanna. When she selects him for a ladies’ choice dance, he complies and, although they are estranged for the moment, she has difficulty disguising her feelings for him.

ACT II - Setting: Madame Glawari's Mansion

Hanna is giving a party, and in honor of Pontevedro she sings the beloved folk song, Vilja.

(soprano Jane Thorngren)

When Danilo arrives late, Ambassador Zeta encourages him to keep all Frenchmen away from the widow. It is revealed that Camille is in love, and Zeta yearns to know with whom, hoping the Parisian will forgo any suit of Hanna. Zeta is desperate to keep her money in Pontevedro. Enter the troublesome "mystery" fan. Zeta seeks to learn the identity of its owner and tries to understand women.

(start at 4:50, “Women women”; Thomas Allen as Danilo)

Meanwhile, Hanna assumes Danilo has composed the damning inscription. Camille comes into possession of the fan and Valencienne insists upon writing on the back of it, "I am a virtuous wife." The ever amorous Camille persuades her to enter a gazebo so that they might be alone.

[pavilion duet, Camille & Valencienne: ]

Unfortunately Camille has been seen by Zeta, but Valencienne's presence is undetected when Hanna hastily takes her place. Intent on protecting Valencienne’s good name, Hanna announces her engagement to Camille--who is flabbergasted--and Danilo leaves in a snit for Maxim's.

ACT III - Setting: Maxim's

At Maxim's, Camille and Valencienne disappear, and the revelry begins with the arrival of Zeta and the Pontevedrians. Valencienne and the grisettes perform a can-can dance to the delight of the crowd.

Only Danilo is not charmed and insists to Hanna that she must not marry Camille. She reveals that she was only protecting another woman's reputation when she and Camille were found in the gazebo, and that she has no intention of marrying the Parisian. The missing fan has been found and Zeta recognizes it as his wife’s. Enraged, he proclaims that he is divorcing Valencienne and offers marriage to Hanna. The assembly is further shocked when Hanna confesses that according to her deceased husband's will, she would lose her fortune were she to remarry. As all other suitors immediately lose interest in the prospect of a destitute Hanna, Danilo feels free to propose for the widow can be assured that he has no ulterior motive and is not a fortune seeker. She accepts gladly.

(Merry Widow Waltz duet: start at 3:55 , go through 6:50.)

Hanna clarifies that upon remarriage, her fortune would revert to her new husband. Zeta is satisfied that her inheritance will remain in Pontevedro and forgives Valencienne when she shows him the back of her fan on which is written " I am a respectable wife." All is bliss between the couples, and everyone rejoices.

Judy Vande Heide
Judy Vander Heide is the president of the Ogden
Opera Guild, which supports Utah Opera. She
also serves on the boards of Utah Symphony |
Utah Opera and Opera Volunteers, International
and is a proud member of the Crescendo Society of
Utah Opera.

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