5 reasons you need to see The Merry Widow

Posted on 28 September 2017 By Rose Mulready

Hilarious, glamorous and romantic, The Merry Widow is the perfect mood tonic. It was created especially for The Australian Ballet and is one of the most enduring and popular works in the company's repertoire. Here are five reasons to make a date with this charming, heart-lifting ballet.


Moonlight swoons, lovers' tiffs, summerhouse encounters, jealous rage (expressed in can-can kicks, of course) ... The Merry Widow bubbles along in sudsy style, with hearts won and lost and won again - but the course of true love (eventually) runs beautifully smooth.

Lana Jones and Daniel Gaudiello. Photography Jeff Busby


The Merry Widow is set in turn-of-the-century Paris, and the sets and costumes brim with yesteryear chic: lavish hats, flirting fans, suave military jackets, frills, flowers and feathers. The final act, set in Chez Maxime's, shimmers with Art Nouveau lights reflected in long gleaming mirrors.

Artists of The Australian Ballet. Photography David Parker


In the final act of the ballet, Hanna, the Merry Widow herself, enters Maxim's to find a roomful of jealous lovers and disgruntled countrymen, all furious because they think (mistakenly) that she is going to marry a Parisian, which means that the bankrupt Pontevedrio will lose the benefit of her immense wealth. It's complicated ... luckily Hanna has a showstopping cloak to keep her warm in the frigid atmosphere. The designer, Desmond Heeley, made the Dietrich-worthy garment from discarded pieces of white tulle. It's known affectionately as 'the Chook.'

Steven Heathcote, Lisa Pavane and David McAllister. Photography Jim McFarlane


John Lanchbery, once The Australian Ballet's music director and one of the great arrangers of ballet music, adapted The Merry Widow from Franz Lehár's beloved operetta. With lashings of strings and a lilting rhythm, his score is a masterpiece in its own right. You'll leave the theatre humming.

Artists of The Australian Ballet. Photography Jeff Busby


At the fast-beating heart of The Merry Widow is the love story between Count Danilo and Hanna. The two were childhood sweethearts, but Hanna was just a village girl, and Danilo's parents put an end to the relationship. Years later, they meet ... and, while Hanna is initially hurt and cynical, she can't disguise that she still loves Danilo as much as ever. Fortunately, Danilo returns her feelings. Some twists and turns and rocky moments later, they fall into each others arms in a romantic, 'at last!' pas de deux that brings tears to the eyes.

Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne will be treated to the Widow's charms in 2018. Make a date

Adam Bull and Olivia Bell. Photography Jeff Busby