Despite financial jeopardy, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra puts on a game face for the start of its 122nd season

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Powell Symphony Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd.

Opening weekend begins with 8 p.m. concerts on Friday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 15, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Friday�s opening-night party begins at 6:30 p.m. Call 314-534-1700 for tickets, priced from $10-$85, or visit for more information.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's financial crisis is now public knowledge, but that isn't stopping them from throwing a grand soirée to celebrate the start of their 122nd season.

The fun starts on Friday night, when an opening-night party gets things rolling outdoors just north of Powell Hall. Musicians will mingle with guests, and snacks and drinks will be available for purchase. Maestro Hans Vonk will arrive to great fanfare, and the party will move inside, where Vonk will lead the group through three pieces inspired by Romeo and Juliet. The SLSO will tackle Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" fantasy overture, excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (which, with any luck, will include the dramatic "The Montagues and the Capulets") and symphonic dances from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. (Note to the symphony staff: Borrow some actors from the recent inaugural Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis performance of Romeo and have them appear onstage in costume, shouting a few lines and waving their bodkins around. The crowd would love it.)

The concert, which will be repeated on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, is preceded by an exhibit of paintings of the symphony in rehearsal by local artist Billyo O'Donnell. Several of these paintings were reproduced as part of the 2001-02 SLSO season promotional literature. Billyo, as he is known, is also an accomplished painter in the plein-air style, which involves painting what one observes while outdoors.

The Friday-night program will be broadcast live on KFUO (99.1 FM), and after the Saturday-night program, Vonk will appear for a "Meet the Maestro" conversation.

The weekend should serve as a worthy clarion for the coming season, which boasts guest appearances by Bernadette Peters, Itzhak Perlman and the Eroica Trio, as well as performances of pieces such as Mozart's Requiem and Debussy's La Mer.

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