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Role of Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow Christie, Sheila Marjorie

Abstract

This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music in opera performance. The thesis is the operatic role of Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. The Merry Widow is based upon the play L'attache by Henri Meilhac, the action of which takes place at the German Embassy in Paris. The Viennese librettists Victor Leon and Leo Stein selected Meilhac's comedy as the basis for their operetta libretto that was later set to music by Franz Lehar. The librettists made many changes to the play, most importantly, the locale. They transformed the German Embassy into the legation of a small Balkan principality. For their model, they used the nation of Montenegro, on the southern boundary of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Several connections were made to Montenegro, for example the name of the lead male part Danilo was taken from Montenegro's hereditary prince, and the librettists stipulated that the costumes were to be in the style of Montenegro. However, to avoid scandal and legal problems, Stein and Leon re-christened their operetta land as the fictitious nation of Pontevedro. The Merry Widow was given its first performance at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on December 30, 1905. The action of the operetta is set in Paris in 1905. Hanna Glawari, the heroine of this German operetta, is a young widow whose late husband (a wealthy banker) left her a fortune totalling fifty million francs. Mrs. Glawari is a Pontevedrian visiting the Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris, where she hopes to expand her horizons and possibly remarry. Before her arrival in Paris, the Baron Zeta receives strict orders from Emperor Niklaus of Pontevedro to keep Mrs. Glawari's fortune in their own country, for if she were to marry a Parisian, Pontevedro would become bankrupt. What follows is an entertaining mix of zany antics, mistaken identities, intrigues, reunited lovers, and some of the most beautiful music and Viennese Waltzes ever written. In the end, Pontevedro and Hanna win with the announcement of her engagement to a formerly estranged lover Count Danilo Danilowitch. All are happy and the operetta ends on a high note (pardon the pun)!

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