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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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On the ‘lite’ side, operette

Have you noticed how most everything except the heat seems to become less intense during the summer? The term “summer-lite” describes food, drink, entertainment, reading material – you name it.

Freedom Plaza reflects a summer-lite mood not only in reduced outdoor activities but even in its weekly movie schedule. Light-hearted comedies have temporarily replaced heavier dramas.

The Freedom Plaza Opera Club also took a summer-lite turn, except that in opera “lite” becomes the diminutive “etta,” which gives us operetta or light opera. Opera Club attendees have recently enjoyed a series of DVDs in this delightful musical mode, including Franz Lehar’s “Merry Widow” and “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II.

As the usual prelude to any Opera Club series, a lecture introduced the material and, in this case, brought to many a totally new outlook on the subject of operetta.

They learned that what we now know as operetta began in the mid 1800s with a series of bizarre, erotic, stage works called “tableau grotesque” by a Parisian known as Herve. He called them “operette” and they starred popular Parisian courtesans, better known for talents other than singing. Herve was in reality Louis August Florimond Ronger, a well-known and highly respected Paris musician, church organist and director of the prestigious Theatre du Palais Royal. It was understandable that he composed his stage works under a pseudonym.

Too much even for Paris, operette was eventually sanitized and became more like the musicals we know today. The art form traveled to Berlin and was transformed into cabaret and to Vienna where it became operetta.

The Freedom Plaza Auditorium will be closed for renovation during the month of August, so Opera Club will not meet. When sessions resume in September, the featured opera will be “Tales of Hoffman” by Jacques Offenbach (1818-1890), with scenes composed originally along the lines of Herve’s operette. We will see Offenbach’s later “sanitized” version, of course, but we can wonder about the original. Now who says opera/operetta is dull?

Freedom Plaza Opera Club is open to the public and meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

Peggy Burgess is an associate of Freedom Plaza and columnist for The Sun.

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