Lisa has grown tired of the endless frivolity of dances and parties, and of gifts and flirting from men like Count Gustl, always wanting to get her attention. Instead, she wishes she could find a deeper and more meaningful love. She thinks she has found exactly that when she meets Prince Sou-Chong. He is so different from the men she is used to, preferring tea over wine, and keeping his feelings hidden behind his smiles. Lisa falls in love almost instantly, and returns to China with Sou-Chong.
Life in China is very different for Viennese Lisa, and she struggles to understand the cultural differences. She quickly grows unhappy and asks to go home. But Prince Sou-Chong will not let her leave; she is his wife, and she must stay in China with him. Count Gustl learns of Lisa’s situation from Sou-Chong’s sister, and they try to help Lisa escape from the palace. Their attempt to escape is thwarted as Sou-Chong catches them. He realises the pain he is causing to Lisa, and lets her go home, accompanied by Count Gustl. He will follow the teachings of Buddha, and hide his own heartbreak behind a smile.
Although it never reached the popularity of Lehar’s The Merry Widow, Das Land des Lachelns or The Land of Smiles has some excellent musical moments, and the aria ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’, (‘You are my heart’s delight’) will continue to delight audiences for many years. It is perhaps due to the problematic representations of Chinese culture that this operetta fell out of favor with audiences, but more recent productions, including the 2001 production by Seefestspiele Mörbisch, the contrasting cultural elements have been embraced in a more respectful manner, and have focussed on the main message of the opera ‘immer nur lacheln’: no matter what, keep smiling.
Das Land des Lächelns guide sections