Opera Theatre Of Saint Louis Kicks Off This Year’s Opera Tastings

Hints of spring mean main-season productions at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis are just around the corner—and, to drum up further anticipation, Opera Theatre’s highly successful event series, Opera Tastings, is underway.

If you’ve never heard of Opera Tastings before, prepare for the exciting and unexpected. The event series introduces audiences to opera in a fun, laid-back environment, in which the organization’s main-season singers perform a selection of arias while guests enjoy food and drink inspired by each musical selection, crafted by acclaimed local chefs.

Now in its fourth year, Opera Theatre has planned nine events through March 20. The first two events in the Opera Tastings series took place this past weekend, on March 9 and 10 at Tenacious Eats in South City, where chef Liz Schuster talked the audience through the rationale behind each pairing.

Below, we outline a selection of four pieces of music alongside Schuster’s inspiration—plus menu items that will appear during that same aria at upcoming Opera Tastings. To hear upcoming chef inspirations, be sure to attend upcoming Opera Tastings happening now through March 20. Tickets are $20 for weekday events, and $25 on weekends.

“Quando me’n vo’” from “La bohème”
This aria is a siren song designed to attract every man’s attention: Musetta, one of the show’s female leads, is at a café when she runs into an old flame. Determined to make him regret ever leaving her, she puts on a scandalous show to flame his jealousy.

At the March 9 and 10 events, Schuster paired this aria with Mayan Xocolatl Cake. “What is more lustful than dark chocolate? Spices of ancho pepper, coco nib and espresso lace its sultry edges, along with heat from spice, seductive dark couverture of chocolate and espresso,” she says.

At Cortex, on March 17, the team at 23 City Blocks will pair this same aria with a bacon-and-truffled-egg crepe with molten fondue. To find out how that inspired pairing came to be, come to the event at the Cortex Innovation Community on Saturday, March 17, at 12 p.m.

“Brindisi” (a drinking song) from “La traviata”
This hummable Verdi delight is ubiquitous—though apart from opera fans, few know exactly where the song came from. It’s an impetuous toast made by a young man at a house party in Paris meant to impress the party’s hostess. Intrigued, the hostess sings along until all the party guests are singing together. The opera where it first appeared (“La traviata”) returns to the stage at Opera Theatre in an all-new production starting May 19.

For the perfect libation pairing, Schuster began with the The French 75, a cocktail that has been loved as long as “La traviata,” featuring champagne, gin, sugar and fruit. “It’s a special cocktail to be consumed by a celebratory Congress of those who live life to its fullest,” she says.

Chef J’s Catering with a Taste of Elegance will pair this musical selection with a cranberry mimosa at The Omega Center on March 18 at 1 p.m., and later that day at 7 p.m. David Kirkland of Turn Restaurant will pair it with a Prosecco-and-rosewater-liquer cocktail. Because a great drinking song deserves a great drink, of course.

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“Lullaby” from “An American Soldier”
An American Soldier” makes its world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this June. It tells the true story of private Danny Chen, who enlisted right after high school in New York’s Chinatown and was deployed to Afghanistan. In this heartbreaking lullaby, Danny’s mother says goodbye to his ghost after the military trial that results from his death in Kandahar.

Schuster lovingly paired this piece with a Chinese Chocolate Chip Mooncake with dulce de leche, inspired to create a Chinese-American take on traditional milk and cookies for the aria and paying homage to the strength of the relationship between a mother and her child. On March 14 and 15, Moulin Events will pair this same aria with a Red Lotus cocktail, which features lychee liquor, vodka and cranberry juice.  

“The Best Thing of All” from “Regina”
“Regina,” an operatic retelling of Lillian Hellman’s breakthrough 20th-century play “The Little Foxes,” has been honored with everyone from Tallulah Bankhead and Bette Davis to Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in the titular role on stage and in film. A turn-of-the-century Southern capitalist who is anything but a quiet and demure belle, Regina is one of the most riveting characters of the American stage: cold, ambitious, and willing to cut down anything that stands in her way, even her own family. In this aria, she lectures her family on why you should always get what you want.

Schuster chose to pair this aria with an Alabama Sazerac, a concoction of rye whiskey, sugar, absinthe and Peychaud’s Bitters, for a taste that is dark, biting, complex and rich—just like Regina herself. On March 19 at Catrina’s in Edwardsville, this aria will be paired with cochinita pibil toast, a Yucatan-style slow-roasted pork.

To purchase tickets, visit the Opera Theatre’s official Opera Tastings page.

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