With scenario and staging by Robert Helpmann and choreography by Ronald Hynd, The Merry Widow premiered on 13 November 1975 at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne. The opening night cast was led by Marilyn Rowe as Hannah Glawari and John Meehan as Danilo. The supporting principals were Lucette Aldous as Valencienne, Kelvin Coe as Camille, Colin Peasley as Baron Mirko Zeta and Ray Powell as Njegus. Designs were by Desmond Heeley and the musical adaptation of the Franz Lehar music was by John Lanchbery.
The Merry Widow was the first full length ballet commissioned by the Australian Ballet and it was an instant public success. In 1976 Margot Fonteyn, guesting with the Australian Ballet, danced the leading role of Hannah, and all of the Australian Ballet's leading dancers have appeared in the work over the years. The Merry Widow has been acquired by a number of companies around the world including American Ballet Theatre, PACT Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Danish Ballet, Houston Ballet and the Ballet of the Vienna State Opera House.
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