Handel's pastoral opera, Acis and Galatea (April 27 through 29), follows the ill-starred romance of Galatea, a nymph, and Acis, a shepherd. The main obstacle to their love is Polyphemus, a malevolent giant who also loves Galatea. He's what one would call an ardent suitor, going so far as to murder Acis to clear the path to the nymph. Oddly, she doesn't appreciate this. It's a beautiful, sad tale delivered in the Baroque fashion. Even Polyphemus' furious declaration of intent, "I rage, I burn, I melt," is delivered in a gorgeously filigreed aria. You'll have your heart broken, but it will be smashed by a velvet hammer.

Another tale about the grim consequences of the love triangle — the odd man out always gets stuck on the point — Verdi's Un ballo in maschera (June 29, 30; July 6, 7) was inspired by the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden. In Verdi's capable hands this becomes a tale of Colonial America, with Riccardo (the governor of Boston) pining for Amelia, who is the wife of his best friend, Renato. Amelia secretly loves Riccardo as well, a fact he discovers through the agency of local fortune teller, Ulrica. Riccardo and Amelia's love is discovered by Renato, who then plots to kill his now former best friend to get even. What should be a glittering masked ball becomes a scene of bloodshed and betrayal, and then forgiveness. Try to keep a dry eye during "Ma se m'e forza perderti" ("But if I am forced to lose you"), Riccardo's aria about duty winning out over his heart.

Wagnerians, rejoice. UAO closes its season with the prelude to the sprawling Der Ring des Nibelungen. Das Rheingold (August 17, 18, 24, 25) is the shortest of the Ring operas, and even it requires massive amounts of brass and string instruments, seven harps, tuned anvils and a thunder machine. How's that all gonna fit in the Union Avenue church? Well, UAO is mounting the reduced version of the opera adapted by Jonathan Dove. The orchestra requirements are lessened, but the power and the sweep of the music is still there. The story is also trimmed, but the essential bits are all there. A hoard of gold is stolen by the dwarf, Alberich, and this gold can be made into an all-powerful ring. The god Wotan needs this ring to get the goddess Freia out of a bad bargain he made with a pair of brother giants. The conflicting desire for this gold then sets in motion a series of events that culminates — three operas from now, mind you — in the destruction of the gods and the world. This will be the first American performance of Dove's reduction in German — if you're a Wagnerian, you can't pass up the chance to have this on your list. — Paul Friswold


No Longer on the Fringe
American Fringe fests launched fifteen years ago in New York City. Now these exuberant, unjuried and uncensored celebrations of ham, which have been diverting Britons since 1947, are popular throughout the USA. Our neighbor to the west, Kansas City, began hosting one in 2005. St. Louis will no longer be marginalized — this summer we get a breakthrough season Fringe Festival premiere of our very own! Here's a partial list of brave performing artists that you, bold festivalgoer, can expect to see in the purlieus of the Midtown Historic District from June 21 to 25: aerialists, burlesque dancers, cabaret singers, clowns, poets, thespians and vaudevillians. Ten national entertainers, as well as twenty local ensembles (like the Goddessy Project and Tesseract's Incredible Mischief Emporium) have signed up to hook the city into the act. Peek ahead to May 15 when St. Louis Fringe and Fubar will present a "Fringe Tease" preview showcase of troupers cast to appear in the upcoming revels. — Suzy Rust The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Typically, a less-than-stellar salon experience means uneven bangs or being forced to read an issue of InStyle from August 2009. A mediocre trip to the bakery results in broken cookies or a cake that reads "Hapy Birtday Mom!" But in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street, true menace lurks within the local barbershop — and at the cute little pie purveyor down the street. This darkly comedic masterpiece takes center stage at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves) May 26 through June 24 (there are eight performances in total; visit www.opera-stl.org for the full schedule). Set in Victorian England, Sweeney Todd tells the macabre (yet often hilarious) tale of a murderous barber and an unhinged baker with a meat shortage. The two hatch a plan, and – before you can say, "Wait, what kind of pie is this again?" — the plot unfolds. Enjoy the wickedly fun story and mesmerizing score that only a genius like Sondheim could create. Rod Gilfry stars as Sweeney Todd, with Stephen Lord and Ron Daniels conducting and directing, respectively. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the website or call 314-961-0644. Brooke Foster
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