The Land of Smiles
Music by Franz Lehár, adaptation by Hans May, Conrad Carter and Fred Tysh.
Act I - The scene is the drawing room of Count Lichtenfel's house in Vienna in the year 1912. The Count is giving a party to celebrate the success of his daughter Lisa in a recent, important horse-show. In the background a waltz is played as Lisa appears. The guests propose her health and Lisa thanks them and invites them to join in the pleasure of the dance. The most prominent admirer of Lisa is the young Count Gustav von Pottenstein, an officer in the Hussars, popularly known as Gustl. He is desperately in love with Lisa but has never had the courage to tell her. This evening he means to do so for he has managed to save 20,000 Kroner, an amount which the government insisted that an officer should have before he marries. But Gustl is out of luck for Lisa has her heart set on another admirer, a Chinese diplomat, Prince Souchong, so she tells poor Gustl that they can only be friends, a proposal that he accepts with somewhat resignation.
Prince Souchong who has already sent a fine present, now arrives and is not slow in letting us know of his passion, how he enters the room with beating heart to know that his loved one is near but he hides his ardour under his inscrutable Chinese facade. Lisa greets the Prince thanking him for his present which turns out to be a valuable family heirloom. She is entranced by his oriental ways and invites him to join her for tea.
During the evening Prince Souchong receives a message from his Embassy to tell him that he has been made President of his country and that he must return to China immediately. Lisa realises that she is very much in love with him but is faced with having to make up her mind whether or not to accompany him to China or to remain, as her father tries to persuade her, in her own country and marry Gustl who is her proper partner. She decides that her love for Souchong is too strong and she leaves with him for China.
Act II - Lisa is now living in Peking as Souchong's wife. She is very happy, rich in her love and they have a great affection for each other. The President is praised by his loyal subjects and the virtues of their great country is expressed in song and a ballet. Souchong responds to the call of "The Yellow Jacket", the insignia of the highest office in the land.
Souchong has a charming sister Mi, very European in her ways, to the horror of her uncle Tschang, the Mandarin, who deplores her appearance after a tennis game. She has been playing with Gustl who has got himself appointed Austrian Military attaché to Peking so that he might keep an eye on Lisa. He enjoys the company of Mi.
Lisa, hearing news of her family through Gustl, is becoming homesick and asks Souchong to let her visit her home, but is very much afraid of losing her and refuses permission. Added to this problem she learns, to her horror, that according to custom, Souchong is to have four wives in addition to herself. Souchong tries to assure her that it is a mere formality and that it is her he truly loves. Lisa is not to be placated, she tries to reason with him only to be told that a Chinese wife must obey her husband implicitly.
Left with only Gustl to comfort her, she sings of her longing for her homeland. Souchong and Lisa quarrel and in the exchange of words Lisa says, "I hate you." Souchong's happiness is shattered, the love destroyed and he orders Lisa to be kept in the palace.
Imprisoned in the women's quarters of the palace, Lisa decides to leave Souchong and plans her escape. She asks Gustl to help her. The only way out is through the Temple and they enlist the help of Mi who, although sorrowful at losing Gustl, agrees to help them get away. As they enter the Temple they come face to face with Souchong. He realises he can no longer hold Lisa. Tenderly he bids her farewell and asks Gustl to look after her. Souchong and Mi comfort one another in their loss.
Songs Include:Ma Petite Cherie (The Land of Smiles)