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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A song in our hearts

It’s cold outside, and the pandemic still rages. You may not feel like singing a happy tune. But if you’re a Janeite, someone else is currently doing it for you:

--Back when live performances were a thing, the opera company in the city of Modesto, in California’s Central Valley, hosted a weekend-long JaneCon whose centerpiece was an orchestrated production of British composer Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park opera.

Exactly a year later, the opera company is making that performance available for online viewing, as the first offering in an eight-month series of pre-recorded concerts and operas. For the price of a ticket -- $35 is suggested, but there’s a pay-what-you-can option – you can watch the video any time for the rest of this month.

--If you can’t spare the time for a full-length opera, perhaps you’d prefer “Jane Austen’s Mamma Mia,” a minute-long TikTok video (watch here or here) that is the brainchild of Madelaine Turner, a twenty-six-year-old screenwriter and “content creator” from Southern California.

The breezy mashup, following in the great tradition of “Jane Austen’s Fight Club,” features Turner, in Regency costume, as Sophie, a bride-to-be seeking the identity of her unknown father. As an appropriately orchestral version of ABBA’s hit plays in the background and Sophie stamps fresh sealing wax onto a folded paper, her voiceover reads the enclosed letter to her cousin. . . and if you saw the stage show or the movie, you know the premise: reticent mom, revealing diary, dueling wedding invitations.

We even glimpse a framed portrait of the mother (Meryl Streep, natch) and images of the three candidates for paternal honors -- all familiar faces to fans of the Mamma Mia! movie: Colin Firth, in the Darcy portrait from the Pemberley section of the BBC’s iconic Pride and Prejudice adaptation; a bearded Pierce Brosnan, here with Regency cravat; and Stellan Skarsgard, under a headline reading, “Fitzwilliam Anderson, Traveller Extraordinaire.”*

Is it silly? Exceedingly so. But it sure beats reality.

* Intriguingly, Fitzwilliam Anderson appears to be the for-real name of a Los Angeles-area PR officer who is roughly Turner’s age. Coincidence? Boyfriend? Inside joke? Named by Janeite parents? Enquiring minds want to know.

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