Composer Franz Lehár
Librettist Viktor Léon and Leo Stein
Language Sung in English without supertitles
About the production The Parisian embassy of the small country of Pontevedro is hosting a ball, with the guest of honor being the rich widow Hanna Glawari. The Pontevedrian ambassador, Baron Zeta, comes up with a scheme to keep her money in the country: marrying her to Count Danilo Danilovitch. However, unbeknownst to Zeta the two have history and, while Hanna is really in Paris to win Danilo back, she wants him to say “I love you” first, which he is unwilling to do because it will make him seem like he is only after her for her money. Things are further complicated by Baron Zeta’s wife, Valencienne, having an affair with a Frenchman, Camille Rossillon. Hanna has to try and win back Danilo, while Valencienne and Camille try to avoid being caught in this fun, funny operetta.
Staging designer Co-Stage Director
Act 1 The Parisian embassy of the poverty-stricken Balkan country of Pontevedro is holding a ball to celebrate the birthday of the King. Hanna Glawari, who has inherited twenty million francs from her late husband, is to be a guest at the ball – and the Pontevedrian ambassador, Baron Zeta, is scheming to ensure that she will keep her fortune in the country. The Baron intends that Count Danilo Danilovich, the first secretary of the embassy, should marry the widow; unfortunately for this plan, Danilo is not yet at the party, so Zeta sends Danilo’s assistant Njegus to fetch him from the Parisian club, Maxim’s, which he is known to frequent.
Danilo finally arrives and runs into Hanna. It emerges they were in love before her marriage, but his uncle had interrupted their romance because Hanna had had nothing to her name. Though they still love each other, Danilo now refuses to court Hanna out of pride, and Hanna vows that she will not marry him until he says “I love you” – something he claims he will never do, since it will make him seem like he is just like all of her Parisian suitors, only after her fortune.
Meanwhile, Baron Zeta’s wife Valencienne has been flirting with the French attaché to the embassy, Count Camille Rossillon, who writes “I love you” on her fan. Valencienne continuously puts off Camille’s advances, saying that she is a respectable wife. However, they lose the incriminating fan, which is found by Vicomte Cascada. Cascada jealously fears that the fan belongs to his lover, Olga, and gives it to Baron Zeta. Not recognizing it, Baron Zeta decides to return the fan discreetly, in spite of Valencienne’s desperate offers to take it “to Olga” herself. However, on his way to find Olga, the Baron meets Danilo, and his diplomatic mission takes precedence over the fan. The Baron orders Danilo to marry Hanna for the good of Pontevedro. Danilo refuses, but offers to eliminate any non-Pontevedrian suitors as a compromise.
As the “Ladies’ Choice” dance is about to begin, Hanna becomes swarmed with hopeful suitors, Cascada being principle among them. True to his bargain with the Baron, Danilo circulates the ballroom, rounding up ladies to claim dances and thin the crowd around the wealthy widow. Valencienne volunteers Camille to dance with Hanna, privately hoping that the Frenchman will marry her and cease to be a temptation for Valencienne herself, but Hanna chooses the one man who is not apparently interested in dancing with her: Danilo, who immediately announces that he will sell his dance with her for ten thousand francs, with the proceeds to benefit charity. This extinguishes the remaining suitors’ interest in the dance. After they have left, Danilo attempts to dance with Hanna, who refuses due to the stunt he pulled. Nonchalantly he proceeds to waltz by himself, eventually wearing down Hanna’s resistance, and she falls into his arms.
Act 2 The next evening, everyone is at Hanna’s house for a garden party, now celebrating the King’s birthday in his own country’s fashion. Hanna entertains the guests by singing an old Pontevedrian song. Meanwhile, Baron Zeta fears that Camille will spoil his plan for Hanna to marry a Pontevedrian and Njegus accidentally reveals that Camille is having an affair with a married woman. Still not recognizing the fan as Valencienne’s, the Baron orders Danilo to discover the identity of its owner, whom he correctly assumes to be Camille’s married lover. Danilo sets out to discover who the fan belongs to, but his inquiry of Olga proves fruitless. The men meet and commiserate over how they do not understand women, but all except Danilo leave as Hanna arrives. Seeing the fan, Hanna takes the message on it to be Danilo’s declaration of love for her but decides that he must say the words aloud for them to count. She tries to goad him into confessing, and the two of them share a romantic dance, until they are interrupted by Njegus and Hanna rushes off.
Later that evening, Camille and Valencienne meet in the garden, where Valencienne insists that they must part. Discovering the fan, accidentally left behind by Danilo, Camille begs Valencienne to let him have it as a keepsake. Valencienne agrees, writing “I am a respectable wife” on it as a rejoinder to Camille’s “I love you.” Camille persuades Valencienne to join him in the pavilion so that they can say their goodbyes in private. However, the Baron and Njegus have planned to meet with Danilo in the pavilion and Njegus, arriving first, quickly locks the door when he spots the two inside. The Baron and Danilo arrive, and the Baron sees his wife with Camille, but Njegus quickly arranges with Hanna to change places with Valencienne. Hanna’s emergence with Camille shocks the men, but not as much as her announcement that they plan to marry, leaving the Baron assured of his wife’s fidelity but distraught at the thought of Pontevedro losing Hanna’s millions and Valencienne distraught at losing Camille. Danilo is furious and storms off to seek distraction at Maxim’s. Hanna realizes that Danilo’s anger over her engagement to another man proves that he loves her, and she rejoices amid the general despair.
Act 3 The Pontevedrians have headed to Maxim’s, following Danilo. Njegus rushes in with a letter from the King of Pontevedro, warning that Hanna’s money must remain in the country, or it will go bankrupt. When Hanna arrives, Danilo tells her to give up Camille for the sake of Pontevedro. Much to Danilo’s delight, Hanna replies truthfully that she was never engaged to Camille but was protecting the reputation of a married woman. Danilo comes very close to declaring his love for Hanna but stops himself from doing so when he remembers her money and his proud refusal to court her for it. They once again dance, but Danilo’s refusal to say the words frustrates Hanna and she leaves after the dance ends. Danilo lets the Baron know that Hanna was not actually the one in the pavilion, and Njegus produces the fan, which he picked up earlier. Valencienne accidentally admits it is hers, confirming Baron Zeta’s suspicions. He swears to divorce his wife and marry the widow himself, but Hanna stops him by declaring that she will lose her fortune if she remarries. At this, Danilo promptly confesses his love for her and asks Hanna to marry him. Hanna triumphantly accepts, adding that she will lose her fortune only because it will become the property of her new husband. Baron Zeta tries to reconcile with his wife, but she is unwilling to take him back after he publicly announced their divorce and humiliated her. Hearing this, Camille proposes to her and she happily accepts, leaving Zeta to be consoled by Njegus.