Wiesbaden ⋅ Tailcoats and women in ball gowns populate the stage, which, based on a design by Theodor Semmelmann, shows the quite modern and timeless entrance hall of the Paris Embassy of the State of Pondevedro with a surrounding colonnade complete with a rural fresco frieze - just as one would expect in a small country imagined around 1900 or even today.

The marble floor and the central fountain are evidence of ancient splendour.

Because it quickly becomes clear that Pondevedro is facing national bankruptcy.

The title character in Franz Lehár's operetta "The Merry Widow" is not long in coming as the longed-for savior: Hanna Glawari, the heiress of millions, appears elegant and adorned with jewelry, swarmed by a crowd of men - just as one would expect.

Guido Holze

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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In the new production by artistic director Uwe Eric Laufenberg at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden, everything is exactly as you would expect: Properly put on the program before Christmas, so that the operetta classic brings glamor and champagne to the New Year's Eve performance, suitable for this as only "Die Fledermaus" is otherwise ' by Johann Strauss.

Compared to this Gaudi, Lehár's contribution from the silver operetta era is even more concise in terms of plot.

Especially since in the performance of Thomas Blondelle and Elissa Huber, which is appropriate to the genre and in the spoken dialogue in the style of Laufenberg's tabloid comedy reading, it is immediately clear that Count Danilo Danilowitsch and his ex Hanna Glawari still love each other and that he therefore does not use them in the Pondevedrin state order may ensnare as a heir hunter.

Gernot Hassknecht's outrage at lukewarm punch lines

Now you don't have to swing the director's club with every simple piece, but a few hints and ambiguities don't have to reduce the entertainment value and at best leave something to think about.

However, Laufenberg does not provide any food for thought in this regard.

The only break is the appearance of the comedian in the third act, which is in the operetta tradition: Hans-Joachim Heist, known as the choleric screamer Gernot Hassknecht from the "heute-show", appears as a prominent guest in the speaking role of the chancellor Njegus.

He steps in front of the curtain and recites an "ABC of Pontevedrin wine culture" with such indignation at the lukewarm punch lines listed therein and the dramaturges responsible that he gets a lot of laughs.

On behalf of the theater management, he should also announce "that,

when the world comes to an end, 'Stupid, stupid rider' is played again” – quote from Karl Kraus.

Said and done.

In fact, the stupidity that was made so completely obvious is applauded enthusiastically at the end.

Apparently, a bit of distraction is good, even if it doesn't do justice to the Wiesbaden director's otherwise high standards of political theatre.

The musically inexperienced approach of the Hessian State Orchestra under the direction of Johannes Klumpp and all the catchy tunes (from "I'm going to Maxim" to "Lips are silent") carry easily through the conventional evening, which also includes Elisabeth Breuer as Valencienne and Ioan Hotea musically perfectly supported as Camille.

How and why the play works so well for the audience to this day remains a secret for both, the play and the audience.

The Merry Widow Staatstheater Wiesbaden, next performances on December 8th, 10th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 25th and 31st.