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The Last Waltz


(Der letzte Walzer)

An operetta in Three Acts : Music by Oscar Strauss; Libretto by Julius Brammer and Alfred Grünwald; Berliner Theater, Berlin, 12 February, 1920. English adaptation; Book by Robert Evett & Reginald Arkell : Lyrics by Reginald Arkell: Gaiety Theatre - 7 December, 1922 (240 perfs): American adapatation; Book by Harold Atteridge and Edward Delaney; additional music by Alfred Goodman; Century Theatre, New York; 10 May, 1921 (185 perfs)


(adapted from Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre.


On a winter night in 1910 a masked ball is under way in General Krasinski's castle near Warsaw. The assembled company, including many officers and their guests, drink a champagne toast to their host and another to a brother officer who is due to be executed the following day. The unfortunate man is Count Wladimir Dimitry Sarrasow, who is being kept under custody in the castle before being taken to Warsaw for his execution. His exact crime is not fully understood, but it is known that he was committed for trial at the instigation of Prince Paul and the mystery surrounding his crime has merely served to heighten the widespread sympathy felt for him.

General Krasinski has done everything possible to make Dimitry's stay at his castle as pleasant as possible, and Dimitry is in high spirits as he is brought in, his hands tied behind his back, to enjoy his last supper. His hands are untied and, as he takes a glass of champagne with his fellow officers, he reflects that his death will mean the end of the Sarrasow family before going on to tell them the story of how he came to find himself in his current situation. It all came about because he rescued a young lady from the unwelcome attentions of Prince Paul at the last Court Ball at the Winter Palace of the Tsars.

For the General, the following day is to be memorable also for the fact that he is due to be married for the third time and it is to celebrate this that he is holding tonight's ball. Since Dimitry has no close relatives, he decides to present the General with his prized family ring for his bride-to-be to wear at her wedding, as an appreciation of the hospitality he has received. When the lovely Vera Lisaweta receives the ring, she recognises it at once. It was she whom Dimitry rescued from Prince Paul's clutches, and she realises that the officer who rescued her must be the very one who is detained by the General. Her memories of the handsome young man and a feeling of help­lessness at his fate make her heart flutter and conjure up all manner of images. She realises, too, that Prince Paul must have commanded General Krasinski to marry her, and she vows to have vengeance on the Prince. Cover to sheet music for "Just For a While"

Vera has three younger sisters—Annuschka, Hannuschka and Petruschka. They have each had all the right education for a young lady and they are now looking to find themselves a man. They have all been especially taken by the charms of the young nobleman Ippolith Mrkowitsch Basclunitschltin, and their mother Alexandrowna is highly content as Ippolith is on her list of elegible young men with a three-star rating. Ippolith is as enamoured of the three sisters as they of him, and his only problem is to know which one of them to marry. As the dance orchestra plays a polka, the three girls parade their respective claims for his perusal.

Disguised behind her mask, Vera encounters Dimitry. She expresses concern for his destiny as together they listen to what Dimitry considers must be his last waltz. Even with death approaching fast, Dimitry is not one to waste an opportunity for pleasure and he begs to be allowed to join in the merriment on this, the last night of his life. Captain Kaminski tells him that he is going too far, but Dimitry gives Kaminski his word of honour that he will not attempt to escape, and the General accedes to his request. Dimitry goes to dress for the occasion and, with only an hour to spare before his departure for Warsaw, he enters the ballroom in his elegant white dress suit.


As Dimitry enters the ballroom, a waltz is about to get under way. It is time, too, for the ladies to take off their masks and, when the General asks his fiancée to unmask, Dimitry is astounded to discover that the lady who has so taken his fancy is the one whose rescue from Prince Paul's clutches had brought about his death sentence. For the time being, he covers his shock by bidding the company to embark on a swirling waltz  but, under cover of the dancing, Dimitry and Vera engage in conversation. She urges him to flee, but he insists that he is bound not to by his word of honour. All she can do for him, he says, is to join him in the dance, his last waltz.

Ippolith is still trying to resolve his dilemma over which sister to marry. When the ladies' choice is called, he imagines that all he has to do is to wait and see which of the sisters is most eager to dance with him, but they prefer him to be the one to make up his mind and they go off to dance with three other officers. Vera, meanwhile, has had an idea of how she might help Dimitry and she sends the cadet Orsinski with a message to the stationmaster. Trembling at the thought of how she must enchant Dimitry to persuade him to follow her plan, she picks up a hand-mirror and gazes at her reflection, seeking desperately for reassurance. 'Dance, Vera Lisaweta,' it tells her.

Besides Annuschka, Hannuschka and Petruschka, Vera has yet another sister, Babuschka, who is considered too young to attend the ball. However, Babuschka has decided that it is time she broke out from her Cinderella-like role, and she arrives at the ball under the guardianship of her Uncle Jaroschka. Ippolith is still trying to resolve his three-cornered predicament when he comes upon Babuschka and invites her to dance. Her uncle has forbidden her to speak to any young man, but they dispose of that problem by singing to each other—he not least of the dimples in her cheeks
Orsinski returns with the news that the stationmaster has agreed to Vera's request and, meeting up again with Dimitry, Vera tells him that a troika waits below the window to take him to the station. 'At forty minutes after midnight the Nice express passes through the station. The stationmaster has promised me that he will stop the train. You will board the train as a courier for the Emperor. A pass with the necessary official stamps will take you over the border unhindered, and you will be safe.' 'Why are you concerned with the destiny of a man you have seen fleetingly only twice?' Dimitry asks. 'Because I love you,' she replies. 'But my word of honour!' Dimitry replies. 'There is something higher than a man's honour,' she replies, 'and that is a woman's honour. If you don't listen to me and flee, the General and the whole company will find you in my arms.' Dimitry holds Vera for a moment in his arms and then disappears through a secret door.

The evening's entertainment comes to a height with a display of national dancing accompanied by a balalaika (before the soldiers come to collect Dimitry for his journey. He is nowhere to be found. Vera throws open the window, looks out at the starry winter night and points to the thread of light that is the Nice express. To everyone's surprise the train stops at the local station before setting off again. Vera tells the soldiers that Dimitry has gone, and she explains that she was the lady over whose honour Dimitry was sentenced to death by Prince Paul. 'He broke his word and forgot his duty,' Captain Kaminski declares, but at that very moment Dimitry reappears in the room. 'You are wrong,' he cries. `That he didn't do!' He explains to Vera that he could not break his promise to his friends and, as he looks into her eyes, they reflect that it really was Dimitry's last waltz after all.


In a salon of Prince Paul's palace, a company of dancing girls are performing for the Prince's pleasure. For them, too, the story of the condemned Count Dimitry has a romantic interest, and they dare to ask the Prince what is to become of him. 'I will show him what it means to get in my way!' he retorts and he offers to show Dimitry to them. The condemned soldier has been brought to the palace as a further twist in Prince Paul's elaborate revenge. Dimitry is brought in blindfolded in front of the Prince and the dancing girls and, asked where he imagines he is, he admits that his nose tells him he is not in the citadel, but in an elegant salon with pretty women. His blindfold is removed and, gallant and cheerful to the end, he bids the ladies a merry farewell.

The Prince has arranged yet one further twist. He has had the sledges carrying the General's wedding party to Warsaw waylaid and Vera brought to him with the promise that Dimitry may yet be saved. He seeks to continue the dialogue that Dimitry had interrupted at the Court Ball, but Vera adopts a haughty stance, puts him onto the defensive, and taunts him with an enigmatic 'O-1a-la'. Sadistically Prince Paul extracts from Vera an acknowledgement of her concern for Dimitry, before finally telling her that Dimitry will not, after all, suffer the ultimate penalty.

He is not to die, but he is to be humiliated. Firstly he will be made to suffer by being forced to serve supper to Vera and himself. Using her wiles to the full, Vera points out to Prince Paul how, since the incident, Dimitry has become a source of fascination to every woman at court. 'And now you want to make him even more interesting!' she says. 'Wouldn't it be better if you were the hero in this story?

As this thought gives him pause, Vera asks that, for once in his life, the Prince should not give the orders. For just ten minutes he should allow her to do so. Paul agrees, whereupon Vera orders Dimitry to be brought before her. Then she orders the Prince to invite Dimitry to take supper with them and, finally, she orders that, just as previously Prince Paul had commanded the General to marry her, he should now order Dimitry to do so. Paul does, and Dimitry accepts without hesitation. 'Now you are the hero of the story,' Vera tells Prince Paul.

Musical Numbers:

Act I

Man is Master of His Fate - Merrington
Love, the Minstrel - Vera
Mama! Mama! - Countess, Annuschka, Hannuschka, Petruschka
I Love You Best Of All - Ippolith and Girls
The Last waltz - Merrington and Vera

Act II

The Laggard Lovers - Ippolith, Girls and Officers
The Mirror Song - Vera
I Must Not Tell You So - Babuschka and Ippolith
When Life and Love Are Calling - Vera and Merrington


O-la-la! - Vera

Original Musical Numbers

  1. Es lebe der Herr General! – (Long Live the General)
  2. Bei Lied und Wein  - (To Song and Wine)
  3. Rosen, die wir nicht erreichten – (Roses Out of Reach)
  4. Mama, Mama! Wir wollen einen Mann! – (Mama, Mama, We Want a Man)
  5. O kommt, o kommt und tanzt mit mir' – (O Come, Come and Dance with Me)
  6. Das ist der letzte Walzer – (This Is the Last Waltz)
  7. Finale I: Graf Sarrasow, Sie geh'n zu weit – (Count Sarrasow, You Go Too Far)
  8. Hört ihr die liebliche, zwingende, singende, werbende Walzermusik – (Hear your sweet singing which signals the Last Waltz)
  9. Dann Weiss der Jüngling, dass es Zeit ist – (Then the young man knows that it is time)
  10. Tanze, Vera Lisaweta – (Dance, Vera Lisaweta)
  11. Du hast  zwei Grübchen – (You have two dimples)
  12. Hast du es nicht erraten? – (Have you not guessed it?)
  13. Finale II: Der Klang des Guslizither - (The sound of the zither)
  14. Wir sind die Balletteusen – (We are the ballet dancers)
  15. Bei Lied and Wein – (To song and wine)
  16. O du pikantes, kleines,  O-la-la – (Oh, you hard-hearted little one)
  17. Finale III: 'Du lieber letzter Walzer – (You love the last waltz)


Adjutant to the Prince, guests, society ladies and gentlemen, dancers, servants

Synopsis of Scenery

Act 1 - General Krasian's Drawing Room, Vandalia
Act 2 - The Ball Room in Castle Krasnia
Act 3 - Drawing Room in the Palace of Prince Paul