"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. The Merry Widow then opened in New York City at the Broadway Theatre 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. This film, with sound and full color, appears to be from the 1950s or 60s, and features only brief portions of the Merry Widow ballet, including a pas de trois (not included in the full version) and several pas de deux. 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 1:20 of blackout while a score is played on piano, and then fades in to a shot of a stage without sets, on which a man (Prince Danilo) lies asleep on a chaise lounge and a woman (Vilia, the nymph version of his lover Sonia) stands nearby. She dances a brief solo and then approaches him; a third man (perhaps Count Jolidon?) then enters to take her shawl as she begins to dance with Danilo. The third man soon joins them for a pas de trois, though his role remains tangential until he returns Sonia's scarf and guides her offstage while Danilo returns to his slumbering position. The film then goes black, after which it refocuses on the stage, where Sonia begins her scarf dance from the garden scene. Danilo soon enters and dances his own solo, she dances another, and the two join together for a pas de deux. The film goes black again, and afterwards reopens on another couple, perhaps the Baroness Popoff with Count Jolidon, who perform their own pas de deux. Upon completing it, the two run offstage and the film eventually goes dark again. The next scene is another pas de deux, apparently between Danilo and Sonia. He eventually spins her offstage, and the film goes black. The next scene holds both couples (Sonia and Danilo; the Baroness and the Count) dancing the same pas de deux. Both couples spin around in place for the finale, during which the lights fade a final time. The piano then ceases as well and the film ends there.
18 min 36 sec
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