Vol. 32 - The Merry Widow

The Rise of The Merry Widow
By Olin Chism

Franz Lehár

In a 1970 biography of composer Franz Lehár, Gold and Silver (David McKay, New York), it was calculated that there were more than half a million performances of The Merry Widow in its first 60 years. There have undoubtedly been tens of thousands more in the four decades since. No other operetta has equaled it.

The roots of The Merry Widow go back almost half a century before its premiere. It began in Paris in 1861 with French playwright Henri Meilhac, who collaborated with Bizet on Carmen and with Offenbach on a number of operettas. Meilhac wrote a comedy (sans music) called L’attaché d’ambassade, about a poor German duchy whose ambassador to France has to arrange the marriage of an attache at the embassy to the duchy’s richest widow in order to keep her fortune in-country. This is the plot of The Merry Widow, of course, with some adjustment of details.

Meilhac’s play was not a success, but it caught the attention of some Austrian theatrical figures, and in 1862 Alexander Bergen wrote a German-language adaptation called Der Gesandtschaftsattaché. This was considerably more successful than the French original, with a lengthy run and several revivals.

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Elsa Von Seggern: A Life Without Limitations
Elsa von Seggern

Larry Kelly, one of the Opera’s founders, loved to tell the story of a dream he had about Elsa von Seggern. He dreamed Elsa had died and was lying in state. She suddenly sat up in the casket and asked him how many pallbearers there were. “Eight,” he replied. “Fire four,” she directed and lay back in the casket.

This unforgettable woman began her life on a farm in Nebraska. The child of German immigrants, Elsa von Seggern was much younger than her siblings and learned at an early age to be alone and figure things out for herself. She took several business courses and began her work life as a stenographer in Omaha and later sold dresses at a department store in Chicago.

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Bravo 50!
A Night to Remember, Forever

Renée Fleming

It was billed as an event meant to “honor the past and support the future” of The Dallas Opera and nearly everyone agreed that “Bravo 50!,”presented by the Elsa von Seggern Foundation, accomplished both those goals with class, sass, and distinction.

The Dallas Opera’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, marking the moment in 1957 when Nicola Resigno, Maria Callas and The Dallas Symphony Orchestra launched a new, headline-seizing opera company on the plains of North Texas, was held in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on Saturday, November 17, 2007.

The gala opened with the sound of popping champagne corks and convivial conversation at the Thompson & Knight Cocktail Reception.

Afterwards, patrons made their way to their seats for an unforgettable night of music featuring Maestro Graeme Jenkins, soprano Renée Fleming, jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and The Dallas Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

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  In This Issue:

  Upcoming Events
November 25 - Opera Insights

Join The Dallas Opera Guild at 4 pm for Opera Insights. This lively panel discussion, featuring singers, directors and designers, invites your questions and participation from The Dallas Opera's production of The Merry Widow. Opera Insights is a behind-the-scenes look sure to enrich your opera-going experience.

November 30 - Opening Night of The Merry Widow | Buy Tickets

December 1 - Inside The Dallas Opera: The Merry Widow

Tune in to Classical WRR 101.1 FM at noon for The Dallas Opera's 30-minute program hosted by Suzanne Calvin. On this month's program, a casual conversation with the stars of The Merry Widow hosted by The Dallas Opera Guild.

December 2 - Sunday Matinee of The Merry Widow | Buy Tickets

December 5 - Amici Night at the Opera: The Merry Widow | Buy Tickets

December 8 - Saturday Performance of The Merry Widow | Buy Tickets

 TDO Special Offer

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  • Pick 3 out of our remaining 4 productions.
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  Did You Know?

Stephen Costello, who stars as Camille de Rosillon in The Merry Widow, made his Dallas Opera debut as a last minute replacement in last year's production of Mary Queen of Scots.

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  Tell US What You Think

In last month's poll, we asked which opera you are most excited to see. Since it was such a close race, we feel good knowing that we are providing a very balanced season.

Tosca - 26%
Salome - 24%
Macbeth - 22%
Porgy and Bess - 16%
The Merry Widow - 11%