The following activities will help familiarize your students with the plot of The Merry Widow, forge connections between a variety of classroom subjects, and creative responses to the opera. They are designed to be accessible to a wide array of ages and experience levels.
Use text messages and memes to recreate a flirtatious scene from the Merry Widow. Then use this updated version of the opera’s libretto to discuss the subtext of the scene itself as well as how emojis or memes can be used to express complex ideas and emotions.
Dance-Card the Night Away
Teach your students about “dance cards” and their place in 19th- and early-20th-century society. Then invite students to create their own dance cards featuring songs from their favorite genres and host a class-wide dance party.
“Dear Hanna …”
Have students write a letter to Hanna advising her on whether or not she should get remarried. To deepen their understanding of the impact marriage had on women’s rights in the 19th century, invite them to read about Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin and Caroline Norton, two historical women discussed elsewhere in this guide, as well as excerpts from the Napoleonic Code and Norton’s “Letter to Queen Victoria.” How does their new understanding of 19th-century marriage laws affect how they understand literature from this period?
The Merry Widow Waltz
Introduce students to the waltz as both musical style and dance form. Listen to a selection of famous waltzes, discuss the iconic three-beat rhythmic pattern, and demonstrate the dance steps. Then invite students to write a waltz of their own.
COMMON CORE CONNECTIONS
These activities directly support the following ELA-Literacy Common Core Strands:
Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.
Recognize and illustrate social, historical, and cultural features in the presentation of literary texts.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.