Opera Scotland

Lustige Witwe 1959Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Merry Widow

An immediate return for this very successful staging from 1958. It quickly sparked a whole series of operetta productions in the subsequent decade. The cast was almost entirely new.

After a decent run playing in the West End, at the London Coliseum, in St Martin's Lane near Trafalgar Square, it sparked the germ of an idea that would see the entire company up sticks in 1968 and move its entire operation to the Coliseum. It was a much larger and more central venue than Sadler's Wells Theatre in Rosebery Avenue on the way to Islington.


The Dundee Press

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Tuesday, April 28, 1959

“Merry Widow” new look pleases

'A full house at the Gaumont Theatre last night welcomed the Sadler's Wells Opera back to Dundee for its third annual visit. There were many curtain calls at the end of Lehár's The Merry Widow for Joyce Blackham and John Larsen, who had been most attractive and successful in the leading parts.

'Joyce Blackham was new here as the widow (June Bronhill last year), and John Larsen is the young tenor who took over Danilo's role on the first night in Dundee twelve months ago when Thomas Round had to leave the stage with a sudden throat infection.  The reception they had at the end reflected the hold they had exercised over the audience, who reacted to the pleasure of seeing and hearing artistes so well cast for the parts.

'Miss Blackham is decorative, vivacious and splendidly-voiced with a high soprano. Larsen, blond and handsome displays a pleasant tenor quality.  Both sang and danced their way through the operetta with the maximum of charm and artistic timing.  Miss Blackham won much applause for her singing of the haunting 'Vilia' song, and others of the famous Lehár melodies, including the “Merry Widow Waltz”, had effective treatment from them in romantic vein accompanied by artistic lighting effects.

'The Widow has been filling the Sadler's Wells' coffers very nicely now in London and the provinces for 15 months.  Last night the Ruritanian costumes, some of them new designs, seemed brighter still, and the verve of the whole company was admirable.  The dancing team was immense, and the “can-canning” grisettes gave a prancing show.

'One of the attractions of this excursion into operetta by grand opera singers is hearing light-hearted tunes sung by voices of quality and volume.  Leon Greene, as the Ambassador, was rather quietly amusing than broadly comic, a conception which had its points. His resonant bass voice was attractive and elocution came naturally to him.  Marion Lowe was outstandingly good as the Ambassador's wife, especially in her comedy appearance as Mademoiselle Frou-Frou, chief grisette.  Among the large cast of principals, the young Welshman Brychan Powell made a big impact with his robust tenor voice.

'Conducting the orchestra of symphonic size, Michael Moores handled the accompaniment with a pleasantly light touch.'


Sadler's Wells Opera in Scotland - 1959

This tour was extremely unusual in that it lasted three weeks, spread across three cities.  The same repertoire was presented in each of the venues - Edinburgh (King's Theatre), Dundee (Gaumont Theatre) and Glasgow (King's Theatre).

The six operas performed in each city were Mozart (Marriage of Figaro); Beethoven (Fidelio);  Verdi (Rigoletto);  Bizet (Carmen);  Puccini (Madam Butterfly) and  Lehár (Merry Widow).

The tour schedule was:

Edinburgh, w/c 20 Apr:  Mon 20 Merry Widow;  Tue 21 Carmen;  Wed 22 Fidelio;  Thu 23 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 24 Madam Butterfly;  Sat 25 m Merry Widow;  Sat 25 e Rigoletto.

Dundee, w/c 27 Apr:  Mon 27 Merry Widow;  Tue 28  Madam Butterfly;  Wed 29 Carmen;  Thu 30 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 1 May Fidelio;  Sat 2 m Merry Widow;  Sat 2 e Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 4 May:  Mon 4 Merry Widow;  Tue 5 Madam Butterfly; Wed 6 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 7 Fidelio;  Fri 8 Carmen;  Sat 9 m Merry Widow;  Sat 9 e Rigoletto.  

Performance Cast

Baron Mirko Zeta Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris

Leon Greene

Valencienne Zeta's wife

Marion Lowe (Apr 27)

Barbara Howitt (May 2 m)

Count Danilo Danilowitsch Secretary to the legation, reserve cavalry lieutenant

John Larsen (Apr 27)

John Hargreaves (May 2 m)

Hanna Glawari a wealthy young widow

Joyce Blackham (Apr 27)

Marion Lowe (May 2 m)

Camille de Rosillon

Brychan Powell

Vicomte Cascada

Joseph Ward

Raoul de St Brioche

Edwin Jepps

Bogdanowitsch Pontevedrian Consul

Jon Weaving

Sylviane wife of Bogdanowitsch

Celine Murphy

Kromow Counsellor to the Pontevedrian legation

Robert Eddie

Olga wife of Kromow

Lily Gribbin

Pritschitsch retired Pontevedrian colonel, Military Attaché

Alfred Oldridge

Praskowia wife of Pritschitsch

Sheila Rex

Njegus Chancery Clerk at the Embassy

Kevin Miller

Lo-Lo a grisette

Cynthia Morey

Do-Do a grisette

June Johnstone

Jou-Jou a grisette

Beryl Cornish

Frou-Frou a grisette

Lily Gribbin

Clo-Clo a grisette

Celine Murphy

Margot a grisette

Suzanne Steele

Performance DatesLustige Witwe 1959

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

20 Apr, 19.30 25 Apr, 14.00

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

27 Apr, 19.30 2 May, 14.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 May, 19.00 9 May, 14.00

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