St. Louis Habit
Monday, Aug. 30, 1948
Seven nights a week the huge lights in St. Louis' Forest Park flash on, flooding the park with a blinding glare—the signal to the audience that the show is over. One night next week when the lights blaze, about 12,000 Municipal Opera fans will rise to 'their feet and roar out Auld Lang Syne with the cast, as they have regularly at the close of St. Louis' summer operetta seasons since 1919.
As they make their way out of their leafy open-air theater, St. Louisans can be comfortably proud of their Municipal Opera, which is neither municipally owned nor opera. Philadelphia's summer concerts in Robin Hood Dell had folded in midseason, and Manhattan's popular Lewisohn Stadium concerts had limped through to an $84,000 deficit. But the St. Louis company has taken in the most money ($650,000) of any season in its history, and played to its biggest one-night audience (11,935 f°r a performance of Rio Rita) during its 12˝-week season.
The "Muny" has gone in the hole only twice in its history—once 30 years ago, when a flash flood washed away half the scenery and instruments on opening night, and once during the depression. Both times the backers were paid back within two years. One big reason is that their summer opera has become a family habit for St. Louisans—from grandma to the kids. Another reason—and perhaps a bigger one—is the quality of its performances. Even a foreign critic from Dallas recently admitted that St. Louis' Municipal Opera is to summer operetta companies "what the Metropolitan is to grand opera." Unlike the Met, however, the Muny has no deficit.
It offers a first-rate production of light opera and musical comedy—with first-rate casts. Some summer-opera alumni: Irene Dunne, Gary Grant (he was then Archie Leach), Allan Jones, Red Skelton, Cass Daley, Virginia Mayo. The orchestra is largely recruited from the St. Louis Symphony, and the producers, directors and designers are professionals from Broadway and Hollywood.