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The Merry Widow

Operetta by Franz Lehár

Librettists: Viktor Léon and Leo Stein

Based on the 1861 comedy play L'attaché d'ambassade by Henri Meilhac

Plot Synopsis

(From Orpheus's 1950 programme for "The Merry Widow")

In the score of The Merry Widow Franz Lehar has contributed a work abundant with music which will live forever, and the story is unusually bright and intriguing. It centres around the life of Sonia, a pretty, young widow residing in Paris, and heiress to twenty million francs. Popoff, the Marsovian Ambassador of her native state, has received instructions from his Roayl Master that Sonia must marry once of her own countrymen, so that the inheritance may remain in Marsovia. Popoff, aided by Nisch, the Embassy messenger, has selected Prince Danilo, the Embassy attach´┐Ż, to be her husband. The Prince however, prefers spending most of his time at Maxim's with Zo-Zo, Lo-lo, Do-Do and their friends. 

Natalie, the Ambassador's wife, has been having an affair with Vicomte Camille de Jolidon. At Sonia's garden party the Ambassador is about to discover his wife's infidelity when Sonia rescues Natalie from a difficult situatiion. 

How the Baron Popoff in desperation endeavours to win Sonia for himself, how the Prince eliminates his rivals, and how he finally is reconciled in true Musical Comedy manner, provides much merriment and gives the opportunity to introduce the delightful melodies for which Franz Lehar has become famous. Against the background of the mythical kingdom of Marsovia the scenes of this scintillating operetta are set in the gay, enchantingly carefree nightlife of Paris... in the days of the early 20th century.

Franz Lehar and the History of the Opera

Franz Lehar was born in Komorn, Austria, April 30, 1870. He showed early aptitude for music, composing songs at six. At twelve he entered the Prague Conservatory, and later he studied under Dvorak. His father was conductor of a regimental band, and for a time he played in it. He also appeared as a solo violinist at eighteen. Then he became a musical director in various tehatres. His first serious opera Der Kurassier, was a failure. Kukuska, later called Titania, produced in 1899 in Budapest, was not very successful. 

He then turned to Light Opera, and his "The Merry Widow" made him world famous. Others are, Gypsy Love (1911), The Count of Luxemboug (1912), and The Maid of Athens (1914). 

Adapted from the German of Victor Leon and Leo Stein's Die Lustige Witwe, was first produced in Vienna, December 30, 1905 with Marie Gunther reputed to be the star. The first Berlin production is believed to have taken place May 1, 1906.

The Merry Widow was first produced at Daly's, London, June 8, 1907, with a long run of 778 performances; in America at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Oct. 21, 1907. Its first in New York totalled 421 performances and grossed more than one million dollars. In that production the part of Sonia was taken by Ethel Jackson, and as a result Miss Jackson's identity was all but lost in the role and she was known as the Merry Widow, off stage and on, for the rest of her life. 

The Merry Widow has again proved very popular, after its modern revision in 1942 with Helen Gleason and Wilbur Evans appearing in title roles at Carnegie Hall. 

Cast of Characters (Original Broadway Cast)

Sonia Ethel Jackson
Prince Danilo Donald Brian

Songs from the Show - Act One

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen St. Brioche, Natalie & Chorus
A Dutiful Wife Natalie & Camille
In Marsovia Sonia & Male Chorus
Maxim's Prince Danilo
Debutantes Ballet Classical Ballet
Finale/Ladies Choice Ensemble

Songs from the Show - Act Two

Opening chorus Chorus
Vilia Sonia & Chorus
Marsovian Dance Classical Ballet
Women Male Chorus
Love In My Heart Natalie & Camille
Finale/Ha, Ha, Ha, Well Gentlemen Ensemble

Songs from the Show - Act Three

Dance Fifi
The Girls at Maxim's Zo Zo, Maxim Girls & Chorus
Quite Parisian Nisch & Chorus
I Love You So Sonia & Danilo
Grand Finale/You May Study Her Ways Ensemble

1950-1951 Production

Presented December 5-9, 1950 at the Ottawa Technical High School, Ottawa, Ontario 

Production Team

Producer Joseph E. Webb

This versatile gentleman began his career at an early age in Rhyl, North Wales, and later studied under the famous English musical comedy star, Nelson Keys. He came to Ottawa in 1925 and soon became well known as a baritone soloist, joining the Orpheus as a member of the chorus in 1935. Some of his popular portrayals include The Mikado (The Mikado), Mikel (Sweethearts), Tweedlepunch (Floradora) and many others. He served with the Canadian Active Army from 1939 to 1947. A highlight of his Orpheus career was election as both President and Producer last season, when he produced Iolanthe and The Firefly, in addition undertaking a comedy role in the latter. He appears on stage again to-night as Producer and actor.

Musical Director H. Bramwell Bailey

Mr. Bailey received his early training in Portsmouth, Eng., where he later joined the Royal Carl Rosa Grand Opera Company as a vocalist. He served in the Royal Engineers in World War I, and he came to Canada after the War. In Ottawa he helped to organize and conduct the Temple Choir, and became musical director of St. James United Church Choir, a capacity he has held for 23 years. In 1935 he became Musical Director of the Orpheus Society and has directed 21 shows for the Society. His musical career was highlighted when he founded the Grand Opera Company of Ottawa in 1948. He has produced and directed Cavalleria Rusticana and Faust in English.

Choreography Nesta Toumine
Scenery Designed by Grant Glennie, Sandy Nash
Costume Committee Mildred Ker, William Wright
Properties Phillis Kerr, Betty Nuth
Prompting Christine McCulloch Allan
Make-up Hubert Kennedy, Margaret Stewart
House Manager John Fish
Box Office Evelyn MacLaurin
Ushers Ottawa Girl Guides
Lighting Roy Sylvestr
Programme George Dupuis
Accompanist Winifred Canty
Costumes by Malabar  


M. de St. Brioche Frank Halpin
Natalie (Wife of Popoff) Jean Tickner
Vicomte Camille de Jolidon George Dupuis
General Novikovich George Wetzstein
Olga (Wife of Novikovich) Mary Armitage
Marquis de Cascada George Montgomery
Khadja (Counsellor of the Legation) John F. Bartlett
Sylvaine (Wife of Khadja) Freda Lyon
Nisch (messenger of the Legation) Clesson Goodhue
Popoff (Marsovian ambassador) Joseph E. Webb
Sonia (A young widow) Eileen Mahoney
Prince Danilo (Secretary of Legation) Charles Kerr
Zo-Zo Lorna Nash
Head waiter (at Maxim's) Dermot Sladen
Clo Clo Nancy Flahven
Jou Jou Henriette Burroughs
Lo Lo Ruth Piers
Do Do Aileen Ryan
Frou Frou Jean Halley
Margot Marilyn Moor
Fifi Joanne Ashe


Marguerite Allan, Mary Allen, Norma Besserer, Agnes Bourassa, Margot Caldwell, Marion Deavy, Gwen Flahven, Maureen Geraghty, Peggie Highley, Audrey Jordon, Kathryn Kay, Mildred Ker, Marie Lee, Eleanor Whitworth, Bernice McFadyen, Barbara McKenna, Shirley Needham, Elsie Parkes, Edna Peters, Brenda Plet, Ruby Rutkowsky, Juliette Sabourin, Grace Schultz, Pat Gallagher, Melva Anthony


Desmond Arthur, Darwyn Aitkens, Vernon Bell, Rodger Gervais, Al Hussey, Allan Holmes, Ted Hothersall, Jim Mackersie, Ivan Mitchell, Arthur Pownall, Ken Ristow, Herb Sills, Dermot Sladen, Bob Taylor, J. G. Whitworth, Ernest Whittle, Richard Wood, William Wright 


Heather Morris-Cattanach, Edward Osborne


Yvette Lapointe, Bernice Thornton, Heather Morris-Cattanach, Claire Labelle, Gay Weir, Constance Joyce, Donna McNaughton


Yvette Lapointe, Claire Labelle, Bernice Thornton, Heather Morris-Cattanach, Gay Weir, Patricia Earl, Constance Joyce, Donna McNaughton, Roland Boisvenu, Sam McConeghy, Charles Chalmers, Peter Gilberg 


1991-1992 Production

Presented November 22, 23, 25-30, 1991 at the High School of Commerce, Ottawa, Ontario 

Production Team

Production Coordinator Drummond Hudson
Director Sheila Shields
Assistant Director Al Baldwin
Musical Director Brian Boggs
Accompanists Lorna Rice & Pat McKinna
Choreographer Aileen Szkwarek
Assistant Choreographer Kathryn Romanow
Production Assistant Patti Mordasewicz
Set Designer & Scenic Artist Leslie Hutchins
Assistant Designer/Artist Tom Shields
Costume Designer Jill Thompson
Costume Mistress Heather Monkman
Lighting Designer John Solman
Properties Mistress Cathy McKechnie
Sound Technician Bill Butterworth
Stage Manager Don Lambton
Assistant Stage Manager Carol Chamberlain
Master Carpenter Andrew Hill
Workshop Chairman John Solman
Hair Design Walter Young
Make-up Designer Melva Scott
Ticket Manager Tricia Ballotta
House Manager (Orpheus) Art Whitehead
House Manager (Commerce) Gary King


Sonia Carla Sved
Prince Danilo York Davis*
Ambassador Popoff Brian Burke
Natalie Popoff Diane Coulterman
Vicomte Camille de Jolidon Ted Durnin
Nish Wayne Nolan
Marquis de Cascada Ted Mann
M. de St. Brioche Michael Gareau
Olga Novikovich Suzanne Costanza
General Novikovich Jim Morrison
Sylvaine Khadja Deborah Hartnell
Counsellor Khadja Chris Cullen
Zozo Judy Kovacs-Tatar
Cloclo Carole Billingham
Lolo Carolyn Dunlop
Dodo Helen Farrell
Joujou Brenda Firobin
Froufrou Kathryn Romanow
Margot Lucille Warren


Anne Montgomery, Shirley Tripp, Marilyn Kelly, Jeanie Calleja, Michelle Tardif, Sheila Craig, Mavis McInnis, Barbara Armstrong, Diana Zahab, David Hayes, Moe Romanow, Walt Conrad, Patrick Goodard, Ken Panton, Nick Michelis, Duncan Morgan, Jim Robertson, David Coles, Roger Webber-Taylor, Normand Lalonde, John Powell, Erik Bunkis


Andrew Hill, Tom Mordasewicz, Terry Dacey, Phil Gregory 


Gary King, Al Baldwin, Roger Webber-Taylor, Erik Bunkis 

*York Davis appears by permission of Canadian Actors Equity Association 


Under the direction of Brian Boggs 

Violins Irving Thompson, Kathleen Hovey, Ioan Harea, Martine Dubeacute
Viola Elaine Milliquet
Cello Steve Smith
Bass Sol Gunner
Clarinets John Hilchie, Dave Ward
Flute Lilliane Mabson
Trumpets Sid Holmes, Michel Renaud
French Horn Brenda Cook
Trombone Drummond Hudson
Percussion Art Beers

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