Posted on 20 March 2018 By Behind Ballet Editorial Team

The Merry Widow’s plot has more twists than a Belle Époque staircase. Hearts and tempers are lost, conclusions are leapt to, lovers scorn one another while concealing their still-burning passions ... and there’s always another glass of champagne on the way. But despite the tantrums and heartaches, it all ends as sweetly as a Viennese waltz. Join us on a delicious journey through the story of The Merry Widow.


Our story begins in Paris, where the tiny nation of Pontevedro has an embassy. The embassy officials are lamenting the country's bankruptcy. Who can save them? A rich widow, that's who! There's a ball at the embassy that evening, and the guest of honour will be Hanna Glawari, newly single and fabulously wealthy. She's a Pontevedrian, but if she marries her wealth will leave the country - and leave it penniless. 

Meanwhile, Camille, the French attaché to the embassy, and Valencienne, the young and lovely wife of the elderly ambassador Baron Zeta, are passionately in love - but Valencienne is clinging to her marriage vows.

The handsome Count Danilo, the first secretary, is chosen by the Pontevedrians as a good choice to woo Hanna into remarrying. But when he arrives for the ball, he's more than a little intoxicated.


Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian / Matthew Donnelly and Adam Bull. Photography Jeff Busby


When Hanna and Danilo meet at the ball, they're dumbfounded. Ten years ago, when Hanna was just a peasant girl, she and Danilo were sweethearts - but he put an end to the affair at the insistence of his aristocratic parents. Now she's a sophisticated beauty with glittering jewels. Overcome, he mops his forehead with a handkerchief, which Hanna recognises as a keepsake she gave him when they parted. He tells Hanna that he has always loved her, but she, thinking that he is only interested in her money, rejects him.

Hurt and angry, Danilo dances with another guest, but the one-time lovers soon find themselves alone. Hanna continues to resist Danilo's attentions, but she can't really disguise her feelings for him.

Robert Curran and Kirsty Martin. Photography Jeff Busby


Hanna is holding a Pontevedrian soirée at her villa and the guests celebrate with their national dances. Hanna and Danilo are getting closer, despite a slight mutual distrust.

Meanwhile, Valencienne and Camille sneak into the deserted garden; she finally succumbs to his persuasive passion, and they withdraw into the darkness of the pavilion. However, the Baron, her husband, is strolling through the garden with Danilo. To avoid disaster, the Baron's secretary locks the pavilion door. Through the keyhole, the Baron sees enough to alarm him and tries to wrest the key from his secretary. Hanna appears, realises the situation and releases Valencienne through a side door, taking her place inside.

Everyone is amazed when Camille comes out with Hanna, and further dumbfounded when Hanna announces their engagement. The guests, thinking of the loss of Hanna's wealth, are furious, but none more furious than Danilo, who throws the handkerchief at Hanna's feet and leaves. She picks it up knowing that he truly loves her.

Adam Bull and Olivia Bell / Lana Jones and Daniel Gaudiello. Photography Jeff Busby


The Pontevedrians have come to drown their sorrows and spend their last francs at Chez Maxime. Camille arrives, hoping to explain to Valencienne, but she and the Pontevedrians jeer at him. At this inopportune moment Hanna arrives, and Camille reluctantly offers his arm. This is too much for Danilo, who challenges him to a duel, but Hanna and Valencienne hurriedly intervene. The Baron realises that his wife is in love with Camille and resignedly accepts the inevitable.

Madeleine Eastoe / Kirsty Martin and Robert Curran. Photography Jeff Busby


Everyone has left, and Hanna stands forlornly alone. Danilo quietly returns and folds her into a loving embrace that turns into an ecstatic waltz.

Kirsty Martin and Robert Curran. Photography Jeff Busby