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Opera Opens

Jane Thorngren plays the title role in The Merry Widow

The weather has been turning a bit cooler, the clocks have been turned back a bit earlier, and were there anything but evergreen trees in South Florida, the leaves would be turning as well. Yes, autumn is now truly upon us, which means another kind of season has arrived.

Perhaps you've noticed a sudden influx of Lincoln Town Cars and Caddies near places like the Kravis or Broward Centers. And maybe you've been astute enough to realize that elderly gentlemen are actually wearing their black socks with something other than Bermuda shorts. The rise in stately people with social lives can mean only one of two things -- another boom in the Viagra market, or the arrival of opera season.

Opera evolved in the early 17th Century from the madrigals of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Folks like Claudio Monteverdi designed the prototype, and everyone from Rossini to Puccini took it from there. Opera was almost entirely an Italian invention, but other significant contributions to the form came from the French traditions of grand and comedic opera and the work of Germans and Austrians like Mozart, Wagner, and Franz Lehar.

It is this last composer (actually a Hungarian who wrote in German) whom Gold Coast Opera has to thank for its premiere this Sunday. Breaking with operatic tradition, which mandates performing in the original language whether anyone can understand it, Gold Coast will perform The Merry Widow in English rather than in the original German. The Cats of its day, Lehar's first major opera ran almost continuously in Vienna from 1905-1907, including more than 400 performances. This allowed Lehar to spend the remainder of his life living off royalties, composing the occasional operetta, and surviving in Nazi Austria.

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