Major Operas | Die lustige Witwe by Franz Lehár | Turn of the Century

The Merry Widow

Composed: 1905
Premiered: 1905, Vienna
Libretto by Victor Léon and Leo Stein, after Henri Meilhac’s L’attaché d’ambassade

Act I

Baron Zeta, the Pontevedrin ambassador in Paris, must ensure that only a Pontevedrin marries Hanna Glawari, a rich, glamorous widow. All the French guests swoon over her at an embassy reception. Zeta thinks that his attaché, Count Danilo Danilowitsch, would be a suitable match. He is summoned from his usual haunt, Maxim’s. Hanna wakes him. They used to be lovers, until his family interfered. Now he cannot declare his love without appearing to be just another person after her money. Valencienne, Zeta’s wife, suggests Camille de Rosillon, her own excessively ardent admirer, as Hanna’s dance partner. Hanna offers the dance to Danilo, who scandalizes everyone by putting it up for sale. The price is too high. Hanna and Danilo are left to dance together.

Act II

Hanna entertains her guests. She accuses Danilo of avoiding her. Camille is still pursuing Valencienne. Zeta is told that Camille is in the summerhouse with an unknown lady. Hoping to find evidence to make a marriage with Hanna impossible, he is shocked to see Valencienne through the keyhole. Camille comes out with Hanna and declares his love to her. Danilo tells the tale of a prince who kept silent and so lost his princess. He leaves to forget everything at Maxim’s.


Hanna’s house has been transformed into Maxim’s. Valencienne performs with a troupe of grisettes. Hanna explains to Danilo that she was in the summerhouse only to protect a married woman’s honour. They can now declare their love. Valencienne’s fan is found in the summerhouse, but the words ‘I am a respectable wife’ written on it are enough to calm Zeta.

Personalities | Franz Lehár | Turn of the Century | Opera


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