L'événement culturel de l'été à Bruxelles!
Merry Widow (The)
The Beginning: The Ambassador's Attache
Henri Meilhac, best remembered as the co-librettist for many of Offenbach's hits, was also a prolific playwright. His now-forgotten French comedy L'Attache d'ambassade (1861) (trans: "The Embassy Attaché") involved Baron Scharpf, the Parisian ambassador of an impoverished German duchy, who must a marriage between his country's richest widow, Madeline von Palmer, and embassy attaché Count Prachs -- thus preventing economic disaster back at home. The original Paris production at the Theatre du Vaudeville faded away after 15 performances, but Vienna's Carltheater staged a German adaptation by Alexander Bergen, and Der Gesand schafts Attache (1862) enjoyed a profitable run and was periodically revived. One of these revivals in early 1905 caught the attention of veteran librettist Leo Stein, who thought the forty-year old comedy could be turned into a successful operetta. Stein brought the the idea to his occasional collaborator Victor Leon.
The prestigious Theater An der Wein was reeling from a series of expensive failures. They had not had a major new hit since Der Opernball (1898), a bit of fluff about three Parisian men flirting behind their wives' backs. The melodic score by composer Richard Heuberger and libretto co-authored by Leon had gone on to international success. Theater manager Wilhelm Karczag was looking for a new operetta with a similar Parisian setting, so a musical version of Der Gesand schafts Attache sounded like it might be just what he needed.