The Merry Widow Synopsis
Scene 1: An anteroom in the Pontevedrian Embassy
The staff is busy preparing for a ball to be held at the embassy. Njegus, the ambassador's personal aide, enters carrying a pile of debt notes drawn to finance the ball. There is general sadness about their country's precarious financial situation.
The Ambassador, Baron Zeta, and his young French wife, Valencienne, enter accompanied by Camille de Rosillon, a dashing French diplomat. A telegram arrives announcing that the beautiful Hanna Glawari, a recently widowed Pontevedrian, will be attending the ball. She is worth 20 million francs and, reportedly, is seeking a new husband. However, should she marry a foreigner, Pontevedro will lose the benefit of her wealth and the country will be left penniless. The first secretary, Count Danilo, is considered a prospective suitor for the young widow.
Camille and Valencienne are left alone. He is passionately in love with her, and she with him, but she clings shakily to her marriage vows. Njegus interrupts the lovers, and Danilo enters in a somewhat intoxicated state. Njegus tries to explain to him that he should try to marry Hanna, but Danilo falls asleep. Baron Zeta returns and orders Njegus to ensure that Danilo is sober for the ball so that he may make a good impression on the wealthy widow.
Scene 2: The ballroom in the Pontevedrian Embassy
Hanna Glawari arrives and Danilo is presented to her. They are shocked to recognize one another, having been lovers in Pontevedro some ten years earlier when Hanna was a mere peasant girl. Danilo had put an end to their affair at the insistence of his aristocratic parents. He is amazed at the transformation in Hanna and, in his confusion, mops his forehead with a handkerchief, which Hanna recognizes as the keepsake she gave him when they parted.
Danilo attempts to explain himself to Hanna and proclaims his love for her, but she brushes off his advances, declaring that what he really loves now is her money. Danilo, rebuffed, recalls their earlier days together.
Baron Zeta re-enters with Hanna and bids her choose a partner. Hanna regrets her earlier rudeness and chooses Danilo, but he, still smarting, refuses. To avoid an awkward scene Valencienne urges Camille to dance with Hanna. In the course of changing partners, Hanna finds herself in the arms of Danilo. It is clear they are still in love.
The garden of Hanna's villa
Several days after the ball, Hanna is holding a soirée at her villa and has invited the diplomatic elite of Paris.
As they all go in to supper, Baron Zeta, Danilo and Njegus arrange to meet in the pavilion for a small diplomatic discussion on Danilo's progress with Hanna.
Valencienne and Camille sneak into the deserted garden and she finally succumbs to his persuasive passion. They withdraw into the darkness of the pavilion, but unbeknownst to them, are observed by Njegus. As Baron Zeta and Danilo approach, Njegus panics and locks the pavilion door. Looking through the keyhole, Baron Zeta sees all.
In the ensuing scuffle to wrestle the key from Njegus, Hanna appears and realizes the situation. She releases Valencienne through a side door and takes her place inside.
Baron Zeta unlocks the door and orders the guilty couple to emerge. To his amazement, Camille comes out with Hanna, who dumbfounds everyone by announcing she will marry Camille. Realizing that such a marriage will definitely send their country into bankruptcy, the guests offer frigid congratulations and depart.
Danilo is the last to leave and throws the handkerchief at her feet. She picks it up knowing that he truly loves her.
The Pontevedrians have come to drown their sorrows and spend their last francs at Chez Maxim. Camille arrives, hoping to find Valencienne and remedy the situation. But Valencienne believes that the marriage announcement is true. The Pontevedrians, led by Valencienne, jeer at him.
Hanna suddenly appears and accepts Camille's unwillingly offered arm. This is too much for Danilo who advances to challenge him to a duel. Hanna and Valencienne attempt to intervene. It is clear to everyone, including Baron Zeta, that Camille and Valencienne are in love.
Everyone finally leaves, except for Hanna, who is left, forlorn, without a companion. Danilo quietly returns and embraces her in his forgiving arms.