Category Archives: Date Night

St. Louis Symphony & Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Being a St. Louis transplant, I am consistently amazed at the cultural and artistic resources we have in the region considering the size of this city. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is one of those incredible gems. Their Friday evening performance with the contemporary dance company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, was an enthralling experience overall and offered audiences the rare chance to enjoy contemporary dance with live music, something most dance companies cannot afford without co-producers. The connectivity between the orchestra and the dancers (even on a limited rehearsal schedule) was clear and confident.

The performance begins with Mozart’s lively Le nozze di Figaro Overture, a comforting and familiar piece that the symphony played with great enthusiasm. The orchestra did a wonderful job of presenting those naked, glorious, and untainted Mozart lines where there is absolutely no wiggle room for intonation or ensemble issues.

The Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for Arcangelo with music by Corelli and Scarlatti. Concertmaster David Halen’s exquisite playing really sang in this work. The choreography by Nacho Duato and the dancers visually brought to life all of the luscious stretching, pushing, pulling, and quick changes between staccato and legato that are written in the score. Countertenor, David Stephens, gave a historically accurate performance, filled with the clean, round sounds, which we heard in the Mozart.

The Brandenburg Concerto left us breathless. I had to restrain myself from dancing in the aisle. After seeing the dancers in the Corelli and Scarlatti pieces, it was a nice opportunity to listen to the orchestra alone playing this famous Baroque work. The symphony’s attacks, dynamics, and textures took on a new feel in the Brandenburg after seeing them visually embodied by the dancers earlier.

The Anna Clyne piece was my favorite. Organic, rather unearthly music is joined by choreography that is subtle, filled with breath, challenging, and unique yet somehow familiar. The shadowed lighting design, white costumes, and poignant playing by the orchestra was memorable. I was amazed by the dancers’ gorgeous use of their feet–their roll down and languid slow walks across the stage were stunning.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor David Robertson, smartly gives us a little humor and playfulness and of course connections to the Baroque music we heard earlier in the concert, by programming Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks concerto. We get to hear the symphony’s stellar woodwind and brass sections in this piece and solid piano playing by Peter Henderson.

The most exhausting and full of more obvious dance “tricks” were found in the visually arresting, “As few as 3000,” with choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo and music by Martinu. There are some moving moments between two dancers undulating their torsos and heads to meet foreheads in this work, bringing us full circle to the curvatures we heard and experienced from the music and choreography in the first half of the program.

In general, it is rather challenging to program a concert featuring contemporary dance and a relatively traditional symphony orchestra in a large hall because typically the audiences of each do not crossover significantly. The cost of the concert tickets will most likely limit the usual contemporary dance audiences from being able to attend this performance, but I think that the event evolved into a fruitful collaboration that may excite current classical music patrons into exploring the realm of contemporary dance a little more.

There is one final performance Sunday, February 19 at 3 pm.

St. Louis Symphony Performances

The St. Louis Symphony is right in your backyard but is also world renowned. Haven’t seen them before or having difficulty picking a concert from their wonderfully full performance schedule? Here are some suggestions for both unique outings with the kids and stellar date nights. In particular, the date night concerts feature some not-to-be-missed incredible artists and repertoire. Unless otherwise noted, the following descriptions (and adjectives) of the performances are taken directly from the St. Louis Symphony web site.

Single tickets for most 2011-2012 concerts are available on Friday, August 12.

Information about the 2011-12 Season
Box Office and Ticket Information
Plan Your Visit
Powell Hall

Photo: St. Louis Symphony, Scott Ferguson


Warner Brothers presents “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony”
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 7 pm
Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 2 pm
George Daugherty, conductor and creator
Bugs Bunny is back with the STL Symphony providing live accompaniment to your favorite classic Looney Tunes on the big screen. This exhilarating new version is perfect for the entire family.


The Composer is Dead
by Nathaniel Stookey with text by Lemony Snicket
Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 3 pm
Ward Stare, conductor
Bobby Norfolk, narrator
There’s dreadful news from within Powell Hall–the composer is dead! Halloween weekend experience Lemony Snicket’s murder mystery whodunit, where the instruments are the suspects and no one will go unnoticed.


Mozart’s The Magic Flute (abridged)
In partnership with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 3 pm
Ward Stare, conductor
Endlessly inventive, charmingly fantastical and utterly unique, Mozart’s final opera is a lighthearted tale of love and the art of birdcatching. The STL Symphony presents a special condensed version for kids featuring Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Young Artists.

Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies
Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 7 pm
Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 2 pm
Ward Stare, conductor
Fun for the whole family! Enjoy a concert of symphonic arrangements from The Walt Disney Studio vault. Disney in Concert features music, film clips, and artist renderings showcasing a variety of musical scores from popular Disney movies including Mary Poppins, The Lion King, The Huntchback of Notre Dame, and more.


An American in Paris
Friday, September 30, 2011 at 8 pm
David Robertson, conductor
Ward Stare, conductor
Edgar Meyer, double bass
IVES Central Park in the Dark (Culture Mama note: This isn’t performed very often. Brilliant unraveling kind of music.)
COPLAND Suite from The City (with film accompaniment)
MEYER Double Bass Concerto No. 3 (World Premiere)
GERSHWIN An American in Paris

David Robertson leads an All-American program full of favorites complete with Gershwin’s depiction of an American’s escapades through the “City of Lights” and Copland’s first film score, The City, presented live with film. Edgar Meyer, reigning virtuoso of the double bass, makes his STL Symphony debut performing the world premiere of his astounding third double bass concerto.

Enigma Variations
Friday, October 21, 2011 at 10:30 am (Coffee Concert)
Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 3 pm
Vasily Petrenko, conductor
Olga Kern, piano (Culture Mama note: I worked with this wonderful pianist in DC at her Kennedy Center debut and have been continuously amazed at her strength, smarts, and gorgeous playing.)
RACHMANINOFF The Isle of the Dead
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 1
ELGAR Enigma Variations
Elgar’s mysterious Enigma Variations are full of familiar and gorgeous melodies including the popular “Nimrod.” Paired with pianist Olga Kern performing Chopin’s dazzling Piano Concert No. 1, you’ll be humming the marvelous tunes of this program for days.

Christine Brewer sings Strauss
Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8 pm
Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 8 pm

David Robertson, conductor
Christine Brewer, soprano
DVORAK Symphony No. 7
CRUMB A Haunted Landscape

R. STRAUSS Four Last Songs (Culture Mama note: one of my favorite works)
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch declares that “there is no one today who sings Richard Strauss’ soprano roles better than Christine Brewer – period.”  Hear the St. Louis phenomenon performing Strauss’ stirring Four Last Songs, his final complete work, and David Robertson conducting Dvorak’s splendid Seventh Symphony.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Culture Mama note: Yes! Dance with live music.)
Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:30 am (Coffee Concert)
Friday, February 17, 2012 at 8 pm
Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 8 pm
Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 3 pm
David Robertson, conductor
Hubbard Street Dance Company
St. Louis Symphony welcomes back the famed Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as one of the highlights of this exciting season exploring the synergy between music and dance. The internationally recognized troupe, returns to St. Louis after performing to sold-out audiences in 2009.

Bach Mass in B minor
Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 8 pm
Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 3 pm
David Robertson, conductor
Susanna Phillips, soprano
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Stephen Powell, baritone
St. Louis Symphony Chorus
Amy Kaiser, director
Composed in the final year of Bach’s life, the monumental Mass in B minor inspires audiences regardless of background as a spiritual masterpiece. David Robertson leads the combined forces of the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus for this powerfully transcendent work.

Death of Klinghoffer at Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Are you mesmerized by the works of contemporary artists Bill Viola, Shirin Neshat, and William Kentridge? Do you hold your breath at the subtle gestures embedded in William Forsythe’s choreography? Did Meredith Monk’s work (whose performances were utterly filled with undefinable sound) used to keep you up at nights? Have you felt the purity of Bach cello suites resonate in your hands and heart? Have you lost all track of time and place when listening to a choir rehearse in a cathedral in some tiny corner of Europe? Have you “seen” sound float up into the air when hearing a Urtiin duu (longsong)? And does the tender yet collapsing beauty of Prokofiev’s works make you close your eyes?

If some of this makes sense to you (and even if it doesn’t!), go experience Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer. You’ll discover unspoken pieces of the artists and sounds above throughout a moving and provoking performance. No need to get hung up on the formality or structure of opera–this production is simply and gloriously meaty art. The brilliant score, stunning chorus and orchestra performances, singing, lighting, staging, video projections, gestures, use of props, and stillness will wow you and make your heart ache a little in the communal darkness of the audience.

The Death of Klinghoffer is based on the true story of a hijacking of the ship, the Achille Lauro, in 1985, by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of one of the passengers, Leon Klinghoffer. The 1991 opera was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams with an evocative and poignant libretto by Alice Goodman.

Conductor Michael Christie literally eats this score up. If you have a chance, sit in the theater where you can see him conduct. He sings every word with the artists on stage and wraps the orchestra (members of the St. Louis Symphony) together so cohesively, despite the crazy entrances, textures, and meter changes. Stage Director James Robinson has brought together a subtle, smart, and powerful vision of this opera. I absolutely loved the video projections of Greg Emetaz. Chorus Master R. Robert Ainsley did a superb job with the chorus whose moments on and off stage were some of the most memorable sounds in an opera production that I’ve ever heard. Baritone Brian Mulligan who performs the role of Leon Klinghoffer, was a standout. Beyond having an incredibly rich, solid, powerful, and tender voice, he has a unique dreamy yet somehow familiar sound. He sounds like coming home. For me, Brian Mulligan sings so perfectly the most moving phrase of the entire production. This phrase is seemingly so mundane, yet subtlety holds the immensity of everything that this story, this history, and this opera stirs up. Leon Klinghoffer sings to his wife surrounded by terrorists on the sunny deck of the ship in their last moment together (although they don’t know it yet), “I should have worn a hat.”

A huge bravo to Opera Theatre of St. Louis for having the courage to bring this production to light, the intelligence to present meaningful outreach and very thoughtful commentary and discussion, and the creativity and persistence to generate support from the community both in St. Louis and beyond. I feel lucky to have experienced this production.

(The only tiny criticism I feel worth mentioning… the bird “puppet” on a stick at the end was too literal and looked very awkward from the side seats. It kind of broke the moment.)

Three performances of The Death of Klinghoffer remain. Tuesday, June 21 at 1 pm; Thursday, June 23 at 8 pm; and Saturday, June 25 at 8 pm. Tickets $25 to $120. Special promotion for the Tuesday, June 21 at 1 pm show ONLY: mention the promo code HOOKYDK online or when you call the box office, and get tickets for $35 in section 2 of the theater. These seats are regularly $100 each.

Recent reviews of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s The Death of Klinghoffer

St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
The Wall Street Journal review
The New York Times review

The Death of Klinghoffer discussion guides on the Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s web site.

Photo: Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

“Fierce, athletic, and compulsively sensual.” – Village Voice

Dance St. Louis presents Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet January 28 and 29 at Touhill Performing Arts Center. This New York based company works with some meaty and brilliant choreographers and beautiful dancers. Led by French-born Artistic Director Benoit-Swan Pouffer, the company will bring St. Louis dance fans some breath-filled, exhilarating, poignant, and stunning movement. We don’t get to see much contemporary ballet in this area, so be sure to experience this performance. I have yet to see Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet live, but from their video excerpts, there is clearly something visceral and Ballet Boyz/William Forsythe going on…

Friday, January 28 at 8 pm  |  Touhill Performing Arts Center
Saturday, January 29 at 2 pm and 8 pm  |  Touhill Performing Arts Center

Tickets $28 to $50

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet Videos

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet on Flickr

Bach Society of St. Louis & Christine Brewer

If you have yet to hear the stunning, soaring, lush, and thoughtful voice of soprano Christine Brewer, go experience The Bach Society of St. Louis’s Christmas Candlelight Concert on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm, Powell Symphony Hall. The program features Christine Brewer and chorus singing Poulenc’s Gloria, O Holy Night (arr. Mack Wilberg), and Rutter’s Little Lamb/Dona nobis pacem. Several traditional Christmas Carols will also be performed by the Bach Society Chorus and Orchestra and the St. Louis Children’s Choir. Enjoy favorite holiday pieces including: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, Still, Still, Still, and Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella.

Even if you are not a Christmas fanatic, you may appreciate the music planned for the evening. These works can be poignant, humanizing, and moving in ways you might not expect. (And did I mention soprano Christine Brewer?!)

Tickets are $20 to $70 and can be ordered online or by calling 314.652.2224 for more information.

SPECIAL PROMOTION: Through November 30, 11:59 pm, you can get an orchestra level ticket to this concert for $15 (value $30) via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s daily deal.

Photo: Bach Society of St. Louis

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Want to hear some of the newest and greatest emerging artists sing their hearts out?

The 51st Annual Metropolitan Opera National Council St. Louis District Auditions take place on Saturday, November 13, 10:30 am to 2:30 pm at Ladue Chapel. This year’s panel of judges includes soprano and Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s English Diction Coach Erie Mills.

The event is free and open to the public. Audience members are (quietly!) welcome to come and go throughout the day.

Read more about the auditions on the Metropolitan Opera’s site.

Look at this prestigious list of past winners.

Choice September arts events in St. Louis

September ushers in some incredible arts events in St. Louis. Here are a few recommendations:

FORM 2010

Be sure to check out The Luminary Center for the Arts‘ contemporary furniture, object, and architectural design exhibition August 13 and 14. On August 14, there will be several do it yourself design workshops as well.

FORM 2010 is a fundraiser for The Luminary Center for the Arts, a nonprofit artist resourcing organization that that seeks to provide meaningful support to emerging artists, audiences and appreciators in the St. Louis area. Proceeds from FORM will be used for a new artist equipment library at The Luminary, which will provide area artists and creative professionals with access to specialized equipment such as a woodshop, media lab, film and video equipment, and large format printers.

VIP Preview Night tickets for August 13 (7 to 10 pm) are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

General tickets for August 14 (11 am to 4 pm) are $7 in advance or $10 at the door.

Some of the featured exhibitors include:

SPACE Architecture + Design
DesignSpeak STL
Studio | Durham Architects
CONFLUENCE Design | Fabrication
Mails Woodwork
Designer Jordan Hicks
Designer Jill Nichols

Katie’s Pizzeria

Katie’s Pizzeria in Clayton is a little gem of a restaurant. Perfect for those post-Zoo trips, when you’re out and about by yourself (what?!), or for date nights. The food is excellent. On our two visits, favorites were the prosciutto spring rolls (prosciutto wrapped around roasted vegetables and cheese), insalata mista (triple check with your waiter if you’re allergic to pine nuts–they seem to make their way into all of the salads), Katie’s caprese, the Margherita pizza, fennel sausage and leek pizza, and the wild mushroom pizza. The crust here is heavenly. It’s very Northern Italian with a bit more grease and crunch.

Only odd thing about the menu is that they don’t serve sparkling water which is such an Italian pizza/salad combo staple.

Seating inside is funky/elegant/eclectic (think a more pared down and less OCD Anthropologie) and the service is friendly. Outdoor seating when it isn’t too hot is nice even though it’s on a busy street. We saw several other families with small children there during lunch and early dinner.

The restrooms don’t seem to be air conditioned though and are a little on the messy side. You may want to have those wipes handy!

Oh, and an odd note of warning: check your chairs when your little ones sit in them. We found one that had a sharp metal piece sticking out where the arm rest pad should have been. I guess that styling element was more Goodwill than “vintage.”

Katie’s Pizzeria reviews on yelp.