Our own Circus Flora opens 24-performance run


Happy days are here again — the circus is back in town. Circus Flora, St. Louis’ gem of a one ring, European style circus, opened its 24-performance run last week in Grand Center where it will present its 21st season production Marrakesh through June 24. Circus Flora performs in an air-conditioned, red-and-white big top tent behind Powell Symphony Hall. This year, in addition to its regular show times at 2 and 7 p.m. “Little Top Wednesdays” have been added, one-hour morning shows created especially for children and seniors.

Marrakesh, a delightful mystery caper inspired by the Charlie Chan series, features Dondi, a 33-year-old elephant who replaces the much loved Flora for whom the circus was named. Flora retired in 2000. Dondi will play the role of a famous, globe-trotting detective who is investigating an international crime. She will be assisted by her “number one son” played by Giovanni Zoppe as Nino the Clown as well as a Who’s Who of circus performers including The Flying Wallendas, The St. Louis Arches coached by the remarkable Jessica Hentoff, The Flying Pages and newcomer Alesya Goulevich who dances with 50 hula hoops at a time, earning the name The Human Slinky.


Featured also in this original show, set in 1920s Morocco, are several equestrian acts. Katja Schumann, an exquisite blonde Danish horsewoman, Sasha Alexandre Nevidonski, The Ianna Spirit Riders and Tosca Zoppe, all outstanding performers, will present one-of-a-kind equestrian circus acts. And back to narrate the story as Yo-Yo will be Cecil MacKinnon. Tickets for Marrakesh are $15 to $30, and for the one-hour Wednesday morning show prices are $6 and $10. For tickets call MetroTix, 314-534-1111 and for more information on performance times call Circus Flora at 314-531-6800 or visit their website at www.circusflora.org.

UNION AVENUE OPERA will pick up the slack left by Opera Theatre of St. Louis whose last performance of the season will be June 24. Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) opens on June 29 in the beautifully renovated opera house at 733 N. Union Blvd. where a much larger stage has been built along with a permanent orchestra pit. From July 20 to July 28 Union Avenue Opera will present Puccini’s sumptuously beautiful Gianni Schichi and Suor Angelica, one-act operas generally sung together. Highlighting the season will be George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, a co-production with the Black Repertory Company directed by the Rep’s Ron Himes and conducted by UAO’s Scott Schoonover. It runs Aug. 17-26.

Among the very fine UAO cast are several Jewish members (you know that I always look for Jews) including baritone Scott Levin, mezzo-soprano Sonia Gariaeff-Zita and soprano Corinne Brier. Levin has performed many times with Union Avenue Opera where I have interviewed him and heard him sing in The Marriage of Figaro, La Boheme, and Turandot. What’s a nice Jewish girl like Gariaeff-Zita doing in the role of a nun, the mistress of the novices in Suor Angelica? Well, she’s doing it beautifully. Last year, here in St. Louis she played Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro while in Eugene, Oregon she was Rosina in The Barber of Seville. Her imposing curriculum vitae includes the information that she is the winner of many voice competitions and has performed widely in oratorios such as Handel’s Messiah in San Fransisco.

Season tickets ranging in price from $96 to $66 or single tickets priced from $50 to $25 are available by calling 314-361-2881.

THE LATE ARTHUR OSVER AND ERNESTINE BETSBERG were two of the St. Louis community’s most talented, beloved and successful painters. From July 6 to Aug. 4 their work will be exhibited at the Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue. Two of the last and best modernist painters in the history of St. Louis, their long careers started at the Art Institute of Chicago where they studied with Boris Anisfeld. They graduated in 1937 and 1938 respectively, lived in Europe, and settled in New York in 1939. The works in this show, some of their earliest and some of their last, span eight decades in which they worked and lived. According to gallery owner Slein, they only got better. This is a not- to-be missed opportunity to view the work of the great Osver and Betsberg.

For gallery hours, call 314-621-4634.