ARTful Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

By Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

KNOW (even just a little) before you GO

Recently, I was invited to attend a fabulous concert (in Wisconsin!) entitled, “A Violin’s Life,” featuring Frank Almond, the Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony, with piano accompaniment by the renowned Dr. Eli Kalman. Impressive musicians, certainly, but perhaps not household words. The pieces to be performed were interesting and any such concert would be enjoyable, but this concert was special.

Concertmaster Almond played the rare Lipinski Stradivarius, a 300-year-old violin with a spectacular history, having passed through the hands and lives of a number of composers, beginning with Giuseppe Tartini (1692–1770). Of particular note is the fact that the famed instrument is valued at $5-$6 million. “The violin has witnessed human greatness at different times and while it does not play itself, it comes to real life when played by proper heart and hands,” Dr. Kalman said. The latest chapter in the history of this remarkable instrument brought it to greater international prominence, as covered in worldwide news, due to its theft in Milwaukee last year (Read the entire article published in Vanity Fair). The thief used a Taser to immobilize Almond following a performance in January, 2014 and the Lipiniski Stradivarius was stolen. What followed seems like a movie plot, until the instrument finally returned to Almond.

As Concertmaster Almond stepped onto the stage, he greeted the audience with a sheepish smile and said, “So, umm, I have this violin…” and the audience roared with laughter. Without background knowledge of this violin, that joke (and the many that followed throughout the evening) would have been lost.

It’s clearly good to have a little background information to enhance any ARTful experience.

When I hear that (sadly!) someone doesn’t go to dance performances because “I don’t know anything about dance,” I ALWAYS recommend Spring to Dance. Every Memorial Day weekend, Dance St. Louis brings thirty (yes, 30!!) dance companies to perform over three days. This smorgasbord of dance brings an amazing variety to the stages of the Touhill, allowing audiences to sample the widest possible diversity of dancing, from classical to the most-modern. Tickets are unbelievably reasonable: 6 p.m. performances are $10 per day; 7:30 p.m. performances are $15, or both performances discounted at just $20. Arrive early for the interactive lobby performances, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Visit www.dancestlouis.org for details.

Feel a little daunted by Shakespeare? Well, fear no more! Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents “Antony and Cleopatra,” May 22-June 14 in the Glen in Forest Park. (across from the St. Louis Art Museum). Said Bruce Longworth, Interim Artistic Director, “We wanted to do a big play for our 15th anniversary; Antony and Cleopatra certainly fits the bill.” The play was first performed around 1607—a true classic!

The professional performances are free (that’s right, f-r-e-e) and begin at 8 p.m. nightly, except on Tuesdays. If a quick Shakespearean education is what you’re after, the Green Show at 6:30 p.m. is not to be missed: With great humor and lots of creativity, the Green Show presents a synopsis of the play geared to all levels of Shakespearean knowledge. It’s fun preparation to be well-prepped for the evening’s performance. Now 15 years old, the Shakespeare Festival is a firmly established event. Arrive early to join fellow St. Louisans in pre-performance feasting: pack a picnic or purchase delicious options available onsite. Visit www.sfstl.com.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what’s right here at home. Collegerank.net recently ranked college museums in the nation, including every college/university museum in the U.S. At the impressive #4 spot is St. Louis University Museum of Art (SLUMA), described as “impressive and historic,” the only university museum in Missouri on the list. (Harvard University ranked #1).

The building that is now SLUMA is a work of architectural art. Built in 1900, at a cost of $320,000, the structure housed the St. Louis Club. During a dinner within its walls, plans for the 1904 World’s Fair were made.

As part of the university, SLUMA strives to educate visitors. Collection pieces range from 3,500-year old ceramics to Andy Warhol’s work, with constantly changing special exhibitions. Currently on view is “20th Century Visionaries: Prints and Photography from the Permanent Collection.” Of course, you’ve been there (No??? Well, go!!). Visit sluma.slu.edu.

You can see ArtFul Happenings at TheHealthyPlanet.com