The Merry Widow

9 June – 28 July 2024

This lavish new staging of Lehár’s sparkling romantic comedy has all the opulence of classic Hollywood.

Glamorous, wealthy and recently widowed, can Hanna outwit the swarm of suitors in her search for true love? Danielle de Niese leads a stellar cast in this laugh-out-loud classic, which is sure to put a smile on your face as it spins around the glittering ballrooms of 1900s Paris.

Sung in English in a new version by Stephen Plaice and Marcia Bellamy with English supertitles.

Creative team

John Wilson
Lee Reynolds (26 July)

Cal McCrystal

Gary McCann

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille

Lighting Designer
Ben Cracknell

Assistant Conductor
Lee Reynolds

Associate Director
Tom Mallaburn

Assistant Director
Fiona Dunn

Associate Choreographer
Freya Sands

Senior Coach
Sergey Rybin

Kate Golla
Ashok Gupta

London Philharmonic Orchestra

The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Director Aidan Oliver

Assistant Chorus Director
Avishka Edirisinghe

Cast includes

Hanna Glawari
Danielle de Niese

Count Danilo
Germán Olvera

Baron Mirko Zeta
Thomas Allen

Soraya Mafi

Camille de Rosillon
Michael McDermott

Viscount Cascada
Alex Otterburn

Raoul de St Brioche
Innocent Masuku

Tom Edden

Michael Wallace*

Rachel Taylor*

Adam Marsden*

Emily Hodkinson*

John Mackenzie-Lavansch*

Melissa Gregory*

Wednesday Houghton, Jaide Jeffrey, Phoebe Jones, Helen Rose, Katie Whitcombe

*Soloist from the Glyndebourne Chorus

The edition of The Merry Widow in these performances is edited by Lee Reynolds with John Wilson
In a new version by Stephen Plaice & Marcia Bellamy
Book & lyrics: Stephen Plaice
Lyrics and vocal setting: Marcia Bellamy


Act I

The Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris

Guests are arriving at the embassy to celebrate the birthday of the Crown Prince of Pontevedro. They are welcomed by Ambassador Baron Zeta. There is a high attendance this year, in anticipation of the appearance of Hanna Glawari, a fabulously rich widow. As a tax haven Pontevedro cannot risk the flight of capital from the National Bank that would occur if Hanna’s money were to be taken out of the country and into a new marriage with a non-Pontevedrian. Her year of mourning ends at midnight. Parisian bachelors are circling like sharks.

The diplomats’ wives are encouraged to flirt with the French widow-hunters. Ironically, Sylviana and Praskovia are already having affairs with the diplomats Cascada and St Brioche. Ambassador Baron Zeta identifies the wayward Count Danilo Danilovitsch as the ideal Pontevedrian suitor for the multi-millionaire heiress.

The Baron instructs his much younger French wife, Valencienne, to divert Camille de Rosillon, the French attaché to the embassy, hoping to eliminate him from the competition for the widow. Unbeknown to the Baron, Camille has been pursuing Valencienne for some time. Though she is attracted to him, Valencienne tells Camille it is time for him to be married, and what better match than Hanna Glawari? Undaunted, he writes the words ‘Je t’aime’ on Valencienne’s fan.

Hanna arrives and is immediately mobbed by a horde of French suitors who want to dance with her. She heads for the champagne.

A drunken Danilo enters from his club, Maxim’s, extolling the virtues of the cabaret dancers who entertain him there. He falls asleep in the Embassy office. Camille and Valencienne enter. She is still resisting his advances. Inadvertently, she leaves her fan on the desk.

Seeking refuge from her suitors, Hanna comes into the office and immediately recognises Danilo’s snore. They were once lovers in Pontevedro, but back then she was only a farmer’s daughter, whereas he was the son of a nobleman. She subsequently became a dancer and married the richest man in Pontevedro.

Danilo was cashiered from the army and is now a disenchanted diplomat. Even if he still wanted to marry Hanna, he tells her, it would be dishonourable to do so, because it would be assumed he was only after her money. As Hanna leaves the office, Kromov enters and discovers the fan.

Kromov is convinced the fan he’s found belongs to his faithless wife, Olga, and he shows it to Baron Zeta. The Baron attempts to calm him down by pretending the fan belongs to Valencienne. She plays along with the ruse, secretly relieved to have found her fan again.

As Danilo emerges from the office, Baron Zeta tells him it is his duty to marry Hanna and to secure her millions for Pontevedro. When ‘Ladies’ Choice’ is called, Hanna is under pressure to choose a dance partner, but Danilo rounds up a bevy of women to distract the French suitors. Now alone with Danilo, Hanna reluctantly agrees to dance with him.


Act II

Hanna’s Parisian Villa

Her year of mourning now ended, Hanna is throwing a typical Pontevedrian party to celebrate their national day. She invites the guests to stroll around her gardens and to visit the charming pavilion on the edge of the grounds.

Danilo arrives unexpectedly at the party. When Baron Zeta shows him the fan with its romantic message, Danilo identifies the handwriting as Camille de Rosillon’s. The Frenchman is now the front-runner to marry Hanna, and the Baron wants to discredit him by revealing he has another mistress. The Baron asks Danilo to find out which of the wives is Camille’s secret lover. Danilo interviews Sylviana, Praskovia and Olga, but draws a blank. He sets the fan down by the fountain.

Meanwhile, Camille is trying to lure Valencienne into the pavilion. She rediscovers her fan on the fountain wall and writes on the back ‘I am a faithful wife’. Nevertheless, she eventually succumbs to Camille’s advances and goes into the pavilion with him. This liaison is observed by Njegus, the Baron’s factotum. Njegus explains the situation to Hanna, his fellow Pontevedrian. They must intervene to save the Baron and the country’s reputation.

Zeta and Danilo have agreed to meet at the pavilion themselves to discuss Danilo’s findings. Hearing amorous noises from within, the Baron looks through the keyhole and sees a couple making love. To his horror, he recognises his wife. But in fact, it is Hanna who emerges from the pavilion with Camille, having sneaked in by the back door and replaced Valencienne at the last moment.

To Danilo’s dismay, Hanna announces that she intends to marry Camille de Rosillon. Although the Baron is relieved about Valencienne, he is not pleased with Hanna’s plan to marry a Frenchman. Danilo, now beside himself with jealousy, bestows a sardonic blessing on the couple whilst disparaging the whole institution of marriage. Hanna invites everyone to her engagement party the following evening.



Chez Maxim

The guests are entertained by the Grisettes, Danilo’s beloved dancers, but the troupe is joined by a new member – Zo-Zo. This is in fact Hanna. Danilo reproaches her for making an exhibition of herself and storms out. Outside the club, Kromov is berating Olga for yet another infidelity. Hanna has followed Danilo out. Swept up in the music of the waltz, he finally admits that he loves her.

They rejoin the other guests. The Baron is shocked to learn that the fan was Valencienne’s all along, but relieved to find she has written ‘I am a faithful wife’ on the back. Hanna reveals that, under the terms of the will, were she to remarry neither she nor her future husband would inherit the Glawari millions. Danilo can now marry her without dishonour.

— Synopsis by Marcia Bellamy and Stephen Plaice

Performance timings

Timings are subject to change.

*Restaurants open

11, 19, 22, 26, 29 JUNE
1, 4, 11, 17, 20, 23, 26 JULY

Gardens open: 3.00pm
Opera starts: 5.00pm
Interval (20 mins): 5.45pm
Opera resumes: 6.05pm
Interval (90 mins)*: 7.00pm
Opera resumes: 8.30pm
Opera ends: 9.05pm

9, 16 JUNE
7, 14, 28 JULY

Gardens open: 2.00pm
Opera starts: 4.00pm
Interval (20 mins): 4.45pm
Opera resumes: 5.05pm
Interval (90 mins)*: 6.00pm
Opera resumes: 7.30pm
Opera ends: 8.05pm

For recommended trains and coach timings visit our how to get here page.

Supported by Handel and Yvonne Evans

Bring world-class opera to the stage

To find out more about production support for Festival 2024 click here
or contact our Director of Development, Helen McCarthy for an informal chat:
call 01273 815 032 or email helen.mccarthy@glyndebourne.com

Main image: Photography by Jill Wachter/Trunk Archive. Art direction & design by Ollie Winser

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