For the love of opera

Traditional opera and daytime dramas alike

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There is a reason daytime TV dramas are called soap operas, and it doesn't have that much to do with laundry detergent.

Keri Rusthoi said the themes of daytime dramas -- love triangles, murders and greed -- come directly from European operas that have thrived for centuries.

"It's all stolen from the great stuff that goes into opera," Rusthoi said. "All drama is based on mistakes. You're in love with someone, and you think they love you, but they really love someone else. Or, you think you know who committed a murder, but the murderer is someone else."

Rusthoi is determined to make all of that misbehavin' more accessible to residents of Northwest Colorado (traditional opera, not daytime dramas). She is the founder and creative director of Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs, and is teaching a course titled "What's Opera Doc?" at Colorado Mountain College. She deliberately chose the title of her opera-appreciation course in reference to the great tenor, Bugs Bunny, who has starred in animated versions of several great operas.

The class is organized around the enduring operetta "The Merry Widow," which will be performed in English by Emerald City from Aug. 12 to 14. The class began Thursday, but new registrations will be accepted through Wednesday. Tuition is $41. The class is being taught by Rusthoi from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday evenings through June 10. Go to www.coloradomtn.edu/campus_alp/home.html

If your friends came back from spring break and said they spent the week lounging on the beach down in Pontevedro, you might want to check out their stories -- either they have something to hide, or they are opera buffs.

Pontevedro is the fictitious small Balkan state where "The Merry Widow" is set. It's the story of a handsome prince and a peasant girl he loves. She is deemed an unsuitable bride. All that changes when the banker she marries goes to that opera hall in the sky and leaves her a fortune -- enough money to salvage Pontevedro's foundering economy.

What transpires are a series of intriguing machinations that result in the prince and the former peasant girl getting together again.

Rusthoi said her experience has taught her that people take more enjoyment from live operatic performances when they understand the historical context in which the story was created. "The Merry Widow" was first produced 100 years ago, and Rusthoi's class will take in many aspects of French and Austrian culture, including politics and fashion. Class members also will watch recorded versions of the operetta.

"The more you know about an opera, the more you will enjoy it," Rusthoi said. "It's worth it to put in a little time."

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