Opera Theater of St. Louis is a delightful experience that refutes many of the current, unfortunate stereotypes about opera while still being fully professional with top-notch designers and singers. First, the performance is not way far up on a distant stage - there is no vast orchestra pit separating the actors from the audience (the musicians are literally below the stage) - the thrust stage and small size of the theater puts you literally within a few feet of these amazing singers and creates an intimacy that enhances your experience. Second, because of the limited size, the productions are not overblown with massive scenery and a multitude of spear-carriers (although they certainly can do numbers of people when called for). Third, while performing all the operas in English may sometimes make the words and sounds not quite as the composer intended, it does make the meaning more accessible even with the supertitles and for the most part the translations are excellent. Fourth, the atmosphere is delightfully casual and accessible for everyone - whether or not you are a "fan" of opera in general you will enjoy the opportunity to picnic on the lawn before the performance and have a nightcap or dessert in the lawn tent after the performance. Finally, for me the most charming and special tradition here is that after every performance the singers come out to the tent and mingle informally with the audience members and friends over a glass of wine or a cup of gelato. In the past week alone my family and I have had delightful chats with several stars and upcoming stars such as Rene Barbera, Kelly Kaduce and Susannah Biller. If you like opera, you will especially like it here; if you think you don't like opera, give it a try for the overall experience and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
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