If you feel your life has been lacking in passion and drama, pine for these necessities no more. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis opens its 30th season with Rigoletto at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-961-0644 or www.experienceopera.org; $38.25 to $101), and this story is fairly bursting at the seams with passion and drama. Giuseppi Verdi's tale of intrigue, seduction and betrayal at the Court of Mantua is one of the most popular works in all of opera. Poor court jester Rigoletto spends his days distracting the courtiers so the Duke can seduce their wives; of course, Rigoletto's beautiful daughter, Gilda, is kept under lock and key, but the Duke worms his way into her boudoir and her heart. Rigoletto vows revenge on his master through the time-honored method of paid assassin (the deadly Sparafucile), but this being an opera, nothing works out as planned. Lust, wantonness, assassins, mistaken identities and one of the most memorable scores in all of music -- what more do you want on a Saturday night?
As with all OTSL productions, Rigoletto is performed in English. New this year are the projected supertitles, so that the plot is easy to follow for novices and seasoned opera vets alike. But trust us: Once that orchestra swells and the players take the stage, you'll be swept away to Mantua and have no trouble keeping up with the death and destruction. Rigoletto continues in repertory through June 25. -- Paul Friswold
If most of us had as much bravery as Mary Meachum must have had in her little toe, the world would be a better place. See, Meachum's home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and on May 21, 1855, she attempted to help nine slaves cross the Mississippi River to freedom. But the authorities were tipped off before the slaves escaped, and only four people remained free after the confrontation.
You can witness Meachum's bravery for yourself at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing site (on the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, north of downtown St. Louis; call 314-340-3207 for directions) on the 150th anniversary of that bittersweet day. This free celebration, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., not only includes 1 and 4 p.m. costumed re-enactments (pictured), but it also features art exhibits, gospel music and an opportunity to gain a renewed appreciation of freedom. -- Alison Sieloff
That's All, Folks! BandTogether plays the music of our youth
Would this generation have any knowledge of classical music if it weren't for cartoons? All those Saturday mornings spent eating Cheerios in front of a blaring TV were supposed to rot our brains away to a spongy mass of goo that retained no element of culture or class. Yet if you approach any random dude and ask, "Did you kill da wabbit?," chances are that dude can respond with an appropriate, "I will kill da wabbit with my spear and twusty helmet!" -- all to the tune of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Ah, Bugs Bunny and Richard Wagner: good times. BandTogether celebrates the cultural incubator of Saturday mornings gone by with "Toon Time," a selection of music best known (to us, anyway) through its use in cartoons. The 8 p.m. performance at the Community Music School of Webster University (560 Trinity Avenue, University City; www.bandtogetherstl.com) is free, but donate a couple bucks for old times. How often are you transported back to your childhood? -- Paul Friswold
"Allah Made Me Funny: The Official Muslim Comedy Tour" sounds made up -- Muslims are those really serious religious types, right? What's so comedic about that? Find out when Preacher Moss, native St. Louisan Azeem and Azhar Usman (pictured, from left to right) perform at the Sheldon (3648 Washington Boulevard) to break down stereotypes like the one mentioned above. Catch the trio at 7 and 9 p.m., and call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 (www.metrotix.com) for tickets, priced at $20. For more information about the comedians, visit www.allahmademefunny.com. -- Alison Sieloff