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Merry Widow [1978]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0459
Run Time
0h 25m 46s
Date Produced
"The Merry Widow" (originally "Vilia") is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page, based on the operetta by Franz Lehár. It was first premiered in Manchester, England at the Palace Theatre on April 30, 1953 by the London Festival Ballet. Lehár's score was arranged by Isaac Van Grove and Hans May, with scenery and costumes by Georges Wakhévitch. The ballet's first U.S. performance was in Chicago at the Lyric Theatre on November 16, 1955 by the Chicago Opera Ballet (with Alicia Markova as the widow); scenery and costumes for that version were designed by Rolf Gérard. The Merry Widow then opened in New York City at the Broadway Theatre on December 20, 1955. Additional key performances of The Merry Widow occurred in 1956 (Marjorie Tallchief as the widow) and 1962 (Sonia Arova as the widow and Rudolf Nureyev as Prince Danilo). The ballet's first television appearance was in 1958, when the Marsovian scene appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (CBS) on April 6. The full-scale television treatment (in five scenes) first aired on Chicago's WTTW and PBS in spring of 1983 (Patricia McBride as the widow, Peter Martins as Prince Danilo, 30 members of the New York City Ballet); Ruth Page appears in the telecast as narrator.

This video appears to be a recording of a dress rehearsal of "The Merry Widow" on January 26, 1978, possibly in Pittsburgh. The video ends, however, prior to the completion of the ballet.
The video begins with a few moments of static before opening with an ELS of a stage, lined with the set of a grand home, where a well-dressed man and woman (presumably the Baron and Baroness Popoff) stand. After the two interact briefly, a servant enters stage and hands the couple an object, apparently a letter of some sort. Before they have the chance to do much with it, various couples begin arriving, apparently for the Marsovian ball that the Baron is throwing for the Baroness Popoff's birthday. Soon, seven couples (apparently including the Baron and Baroness at center) are dancing while two men (perhaps one of whom is Count Jolidon?) survey the group. As the dance continues, there seems to be some fighting over who may dance with the Baroness--Count Jolidon shows a particular interest in her.

Eventually, the dance ends and all of the women leave; the men gather into a group and welcome the arrival of the Merry Widow herself, Sonia. She dances a solo as they look on, at times dancing their own ensemble dance as they follow her around. She is then partnered by one man while the rest continue to look on and occasionally join in, eventually following her offstage. Next, a group of eight women enters and they greet Prince Danilo, joining him in a dance. As all strike their final pose, two more men (perhaps one of whom is the Baron?) enter. They seem to shoo away many of the women, during which time the stage is somewhat chaotic. 

A group of men then kneels to re-introduce Sonia, and the Baron encourages Prince Danilo in particular to meet her. Danilo refuses, and then resists. The group of men and the Baron soon exit, leaving Danilo and Sonia alone to dance a pas de deux.  As they exit together, three couples enter and begin dancing. When these exit, several other couples enter and dance as well--including what appears to be the Baron with two partners. He seems to be replaced by Jolidon, who is joined by the Baroness.

After the couple dancing continues for awhile, the scenery rises and a garden scene begins. A row of young women dance a "traditional" Marsovian dance while some of the others look on. Then Prince Danilo enters and dances a brief solo; Sonia enters after him and dances one of her own, during which she holds two scarves. Afterwards, the two dance a pas de deux based in competitive jumping and turning. The lookers-on congratulate them as she gives him one of her scarves as a sign of love--the rest then exit and the two are pulled apart.

Next, the Baroness reenters alone and dances a brief solo; she is then joined by Jolidon and the two dance a pas de deux. As they exit, Sonia and Danilo reenter and dance another pas de deux of their own, during which they seem to fall in love again. As they exit, the video ends.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)