The Merry Widow Primer
by Karen Kain
June 18, 2019
I have many fond memories of this ballet. Dancing the role of Hanna always made me feel like I was in an old Hollywood film – it is sentimental, glamourous and so much fun! I am thrilled to bring it back after a 10-year absence.
The Merry Widow was created for The Australian Ballet in 1975 and entered the repertoire of The National Ballet of Canada in 1986. Choreographed by Ronald Hynd, it was adapted from the 1905 operetta of the same name by Franz Lehár. The gorgeous designs are by Desmond Heeley, who also created sets and costumes for the National Ballet’s Giselle, Don Quixote and La Sylphide. Lehár’s music is adapted by John Lanchbery, one of the world’s great ballet arrangers, and retains the original orchestration. It was wonderful to have both John Meehan, who partnered me as Count Danilo for the National Ballet premiere in 1986, and choreographer Ronald Hynd in the studio with the company staging this work.
The Merry Widow tells the story of a fictional Balkan principality, Pontevedro, facing bankruptcy. To prevent financial ruin, the aristocrat Count Danilo is persuaded to seduce a rich widow, Hanna Glawari, with whom he had a secret, previous romance. Set in Paris at the turn-of-the-century, the ballet is a lavish affair featuring signature elements from La Belle Époque, including the can-can, dizzying waltzes and elegant costumes.
The performances of The Merry Widow are bittersweet for the company as they mark the retirement of one our most luminous and beloved artists, Principal Dancer Xiao Nan Yu who retires after 22 years. Nan is a beautiful, versatile dancer with a gift for dramatic interpretation. She chose to say farewell with The Merry Widow because, in her words, “Hanna is a mature woman with a new life ahead. And I feel that reflects who I am and where I’m going.” Nan will be greatly missed by everyone in the company and I look forward to celebrating her brilliant career onstage following her final performance on Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 pm.
The Merry Widow is onstage June 19 – 23, 2019.