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Merry Widow [1955]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0007
Run Time
0h 10m 8s
Date Produced
"The Merry Widow" (originally "Vilia") is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page, based on the operetta by Franz Lehár. It was first premiered in Manchester, England at the Palace Theatre on April 30, 1953 by the London Festival Ballet. Lehár's score was arranged by Isaac Van Grove and Hans May, with scenery and costumes by Georges Wakhévitch. The ballet's first U.S. performance was in Chicago at the Lyric Theatre on November 16, 1955 by the Chicago Opera Ballet (with Alicia Markova as the widow); scenery and costumes for that version were designed by Rolf Gérard. This film appears to have been made around this time; its segments are captured from the wings and audience of a dress rehearsal or performance including Alicia Markova as Sonia. The film may also have been taken in New York City at the Broadway Theatre, where the ballet opened again on December 20, 1955. Additional key performances of The Merry Widow occurred in 1956 (Marjorie Tallchief as the widow) and 1962 (Sonia Arova as the widow and Rudolf Nureyev as Prince Danilo). The ballet's first television appearance was in 1958, when the Marsovian scene appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (CBS) on April 6. The full-scale television treatment (in five scenes) eventually aired on Chicago's WTTW and PBS in spring of 1983 (Patricia McBride as the widow, Peter Martins as Prince Danilo, 30 members of the New York City Ballet); Ruth Page appears in the telecast as narrator.
The film opens with a side view of a stage, on which the camera points at a couple (apparently the Merry Widow, Sonia, and her suitor, Prince Danilo) dancing a pas de deux. As they exit off the other side of the stage, the camera pans back towards other couples dancing together. It cuts several times to different points in these dances, with only part of the stage (and thus a few couples) in full view of the camera. It then cuts to Danilo's garden solo, which is immediately followed by Sonia's garden solo, more footage of his, and then the two of them together. The camera then cuts to what appears to be a pas de deux by the Baroness Popoff and Count Jolidon. Next, it cuts to the dream-pas de deux between the sleeping Danilo and the nymph version of Sonia, Vilia. They dance around his bed/chaise, with several camera cuts during the dance. Before it ends, the camera cuts yet again to other segments of the ballet, settling on a different perspective: from the audience. It is a scene near the beginning of the ballet, in which the Baron and Baroness are welcoming guests to their ball. This soon gives way to Sonia's first entrance and solo, through which she enraptures all male guests around her. Next, a solo by Danilo; then, a pas de deux between the two including other couples in the background. It then cuts from a general ballroom floor segment to a new perspective on the dances in the garden. Next appears to be a brief view of Danilo with can-can dancers, and then a Jolidon-Baroness pas de deux, a new perspective on the chaise dream-pas and the can-can girls right before it. There are more pas de deux segments and group dance segments, but some are at a bad angle such that only the feet are visible. The film then cuts back to the perspective from the wings, once again returning to beginning scenes with the Baron and Baroness, and then Sonia's first solo. Eventually, the camera cuts to other sequences, apparently involving Danilo (or perhaps the Baron Popoff?); the film ends there.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Markova, Alicia (is performer)
Briansky, Oleg (is performer)