L'événement culturel de l'été à Bruxelles!
Merry Widow (The)
The Theatre An der Wein's treasury had been depleted by a series of recent failures, so the management kept their investment in Die Lustige Witwe to a minimum by using recycled costumes and sets. Instead of openly mentioning Meilhac's original play (which would have forced them to pay rights fees), their program notes described the plot as "partly based on a foreign idea."
mwvleads.jpg (16352 bytes)The secondhand production was blessed with a first-rate cast. Soprano Mizzi Gunther and baritone Louis Treumann (both seen in the photo on the right) were the first choices to fill the roles of widow Hannah Glawari and her once and future lover, Count Danilo. They had previously co-starred in both Der Opernball and Der Rastelbinder. While neither performer was strikingly attractive, onstage their chemistry struck a tasteful balance of propriety and passion.
Like their composer, the two stars firmly believed Die Lustige Witwe would succeed. Gunther paid for her own lavish costumes, and Treumann ordered a costly replica of a real royal dress uniform. As rehearsals progressed, the producers became increasingly pessimistic that Lehar's innovative use of orchestral coloring (usually reserved for more serious compositions) would meet with public approval. At one point, theatre manager Karczag offered Lehar five thousand crowns to shut down the production. The composer refused, but such tactless maneuvers must have added to everyone's pre-opening jitters.