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Victorian-era entertainment still resonates today

The title character (Robin Steitz) and the fake poet (Rick DuPuy) who courts her in Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s operetta “Patience.” COURTESY PHOTOThe title character (Robin Steitz) and the fake poet (Rick DuPuy) who courts her in Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s “Patience.” COURTESY PHOTO  Gilbert and Sullivan originally intended their operetta “Patience” to lampoon the church. Concerned about possible backlash, they poked fun of poets and the Aesthetic Movement instead.

The mid-19-century movement believed in art for art’s sake and the pursuit of beauty and self-expression over the moral strictness of the Victorians, who, in turn, mocked the movement.

“‘Patience’ is about people pretending to be poets and people pretending to love poets, and a dairy maid, who can’t understand people’s attachment to poetry,” said Felicity Ann Brown, who is directing the Victorian Lyric Opera Company production of the operetta. “She’s never been in love, and doesn’t understand why people want to be.”

“Patience” doesn’t get performed often, she added, “because it’s hard to explain to audiences – the language is so poetic, and it makes fun of a movement people are not familiar with. But the music is beautiful.”

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The Merry Widow rich in lilting melodies, comedy, and romance

Rehearsing for the Can-can, one of many dances in LVOC’s ‘The Merry Widow’ COURTESY PHOTO BY JACKIE ROGERSRehearsing for the Can-can, one of many dances in LVOC’s ‘The Merry Widow’ COURTESY PHOTO BY JACKIE ROGERS  Singer Marie Claire Sullivan spent a year in Germany and speaks the language.

That would have come in handy for her lead role as Hanna in Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s production of “The Merry Widow” – if the Rockville-based organization is singing the beloved Franz Lehar operetta in the original German.

But the company is using an English adaptation, by Quade Winter.

This is something the director, Madeleine Smith, is “overjoyed” about, since she can collaborate, if needs be, with the still-living translator.

“Oftentimes a libretto tends to ring a little dusty,” she said.

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