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The Sunday Opera: Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow" from Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts

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This week’s Sunday Opera (10/6 3:00 p.m.) features an international favorite in a production from Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts. Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” is centered on the wealthy Pontevedrian widow Hannah Glawari (Song Yuanming) and the gaggle of admirers who want to marry her for her fortune. Baron Mirko Zeta (Liu Songhu) is trying his best to keep Hannah’s money in Pontevedro, so he introduces Hannah to Count Danilo (Thomas Laske) in the hopes he will marry Hannah and preserve her fortune. However, Danilo is more interested in the girls of Maxim’s and remains aloof.

Meanwhile, Zeta’s wife, Valencienne (Sarah Zhai Strauss), is being pursued by a young Frenchman named Camille (Shi Yijie), and he writes “I love you” on her fan. That fan will eventually cause a great deal of difficulty before it brings about a happy ending for all. Thomas Rosner conducts the NCPA Chorus and Orchestra.

We’ll continue with more music of Lehar after “The Merry Widow” and another of his operettas that’s primarily known by one aria “Dein ist mein ganzes hertz.” “The Land of Smiles” was championed by Richard Tauber and performed around the world. The recording to which we’ll be listening comes from 1954 and features Nicolai Gedda as Prince Sou-Chong who’s in love a French girl named Lisa (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf).

Lisa follows him to China where they wed, and she is happy until she finds that Sou-Chong will have to take four more wives (by custom), and she sadly leaves with help from Count Gustav (Erich Kunz) who followed her from Paris. Gustav, or Gustl, takes his leave of Princess Mi (Emmy Loose), and the operetta ends with Sou-Chong and Mi smiling at their misfortunes, as Sou-Chong Explains, is the custom of the Chinese. Otto Ackerman conducts this recording which features the Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus.

The afternoon will also include the prelude to the first act of one of Lehar’s earliest works, the opera “Tatjana” which he wrote when he was in his twenties.

Join us this week for some glorious music by an often-overlooked composer.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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