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On 30 December 1905, The Merry Widow opened in Vienna to a moderately full house. The audience was immensely pleased and the playing of Lehár's tunes in the city's cafés helped sell more tickets. It ran at the original location until summer when it was transported to a cooler theater. Later, it was moved to the Volksoper and back to the Theater an der Wien. Finally, for the show's three hundredth performance, the singers and dancers got new costumes and by the four hundredth show the composer had written a new overture.

Susan Graham as The Merry Widow and Rod Gilfry as Count Danilo. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Susan Graham as The Merry Widow and Rod Gilfry as Count Danilo. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

During 1906, The Merry Widow was staged in Hamburg, Berlin and Budapest. The next year it was loosely translated into English and received excellent reviews in London, New York and tour cities throughout the United States. A tribute to the operetta's lasting popularity is the fact that Los Angeles Opera staged the show in English this year and that Czech Opera Prague will tour from New England to California with Die Lustige Witwe during the 2007-2008 season.

A scene from LA Opera's production of 'The Merry Widow'. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
A scene from LA Opera's production of 'The Merry Widow'. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

On 23 May 2007, Los Angeles Opera presented The Merry Widow in an opulent English language production starring an ebullient, vocally smooth and sophisticated Susan Graham and a most gallant, dark voiced Rod Gilfry. The operetta was sung in a stylized translation by Christopher Hasall to which stage director Lotfi Mansouri added additional material, including the musical number, 'Love, Live Forever',? from Lehár's Paganini.

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Copyright © 17 June 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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