Met Opera’s ‘Live in HD’ season opens with Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’

Alek Shrader as Camille de Rosillon, Renée Fleming as Hanna and Nathan Gunn as Danilo, in Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’ Photo credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

This week, the Metropolitan Opera opens the first of the Summer Encores performances from its Live in HD season. Lehár’s The Merry Widow will be screened in cinemas across the US and in select locations internationally, on Wednesday, July 13.

Staged by five-time Tony Award winning director and choreographer, Susan Stroman, The Merry Widow is set in Paris and tells of the fabulously wealthy widow, Hanna Glawari, who is being courted by her former lover, Danilo, to ensure that her fortune remains in their home country of Pontevedro. The title role is taken by soprano Renée Fleming, “superstar of the operatic world” (according to London Theatre), with the role of Danilo sung by Nathan Gunn – described by The Mercury News as “the sensational baritone… with intense charisma and a voice like honey”. Soprano Kelli O’Hara is Valencienne, the flirtatious young wife of Baron Zeta, the Pontevedrian ambassador in Paris, sung by baritone Thomas Allen, with tenor Alek Shrader as her suitor, Camille de Rosillon.

A scene from Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’ Photo credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The original German libretto of this three-act comic operetta was written by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, and based upon the book L’Attaché d’ambassade by Henri Meilhac. Die lustige Witwe (the German name) did not have an easy path to success, since the score by Austrian composer Richard Heuberger was not to the liking of the librettists. Lehár, who had not previously written this kind of comic operetta, was suggested as a composer by the secretary of the Theater an der Wien – where the operetta was scheduled to run – and although the theatre manager was not completely happy with the finished product, it premiered on December 30, 1905. Within a few years, Die lustige Witwe had become an international success and ultimately became one of the most popular operettas in the repertoire.

A scene from Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’ Photo credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Originally transmitted on January 17, 2015, This Metropolitan Opera production was translated into English by Jeremy Sams.

Andrew Davis leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, soloists and Chorus in Franz Lehár’s gorgeous score to The Merry Widow. Find your nearest cinema on this link.

A scene from Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’ Photo credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

This Metropolitan Opera Live in HD season continues with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, starring soprano Patricia Racette in the title role in Anthony Minghella’s acclaimed production; Franco Zeffirelli’s lovely staging of Puccini’s La Bohème, with soprano Sonya Yoncheva and tenor Michael Fabiano; and Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, featuring soprano Natalie Dessay and tenor Juan Diego Flórez.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes

Susan Stroman

Renée Fleming

Nathan Gunn

Encyclopaedia Britannica

ArtsPreview home page

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