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December’s cultural calendar: Art, music and the holidays

Bill DeYoung



"L'Ile au Trésor (Treasure Island)," oil on canvas (1942) by Rene Magritte.

The holidays are here at last, right on time, and December’s arts and culture calendar is stuffed stocking-full of music, theater and other Christmas-themed stagecraft. There are uber-impressive happenings this month in the visual arts, too.

We recently published in-depth looks at the holiday plays just premiered at American Stage and freeFall Theatre (Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and Every Christmas Story Ever Told, respectively). Both continue this week and carry on through (or close to) the end of the month).

What is reality?

Having absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, but no less colorful than the Straub Park Christmas tree, is the exhibition of paintings by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte at the Dali Museum.

La Magie noire (Black Magic), oil on canvas (1945) by Magritte.

Magritte (1898-1967) was a contemporary of Dali’s, and indeed the artists knew one another, and participated in the same surrealist exhibitions from the 1920s through the ‘40s. Although they shared a common aesthetic – everyday objects viewed through a distorted lens, thereby making subtle comments about context, reality and the thought process – their work was vastly different. As Magritte and Dali, opening Dec. 15, will make clear, the imagination knows no limits.

Among the nearly 30 Magritte paintings on display will be Le Baiser [The Kiss] (1938), La Magie noire [Black Magic] (1945), L’Oiseau de ciel [Sky Bird] 1966, and Dieu n’est pas un saint [God Is No Saint] (ca. 1935-36).

The Dali Museum pairing (through May 19) is curated in partnership with Brussels’ Magritte Museum (a part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium), and will travel there following its time in St. Pete.

Also planned is an interactive “cloud room,” where visitors will be encouraged to capture images of themselves intermingled with surrealist icons and symbols.


The St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts’ December exhibition shines a light on 135 pieces of exquisitely hand-crafted jewelry.  Jean Schlumberger (1907-1987) was legendary for his whimsical designs; historically, the Frenchman was one of just four Tiffany and Co. jewelry designers allowed to sign his work, which went to a who’s who of clients including Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor and Gloria Vanderbilt. John F. Kennedy bought numerous Schlumberger pieces for Jackie (she had a big collection of his jeweled bracelets, for example).

Jean Schlumberger: Bird on a Rock Brooch, 18 karat gold, platinum, lapis lazuli, colored diamond and white diamonds.

The work on view at the MFA, starting Dec. 15, came from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; it was in the collection of socialite, philanthropist, race horse breeder and art connoisseur Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a favorite client of Schlumberger’s.

(Six degrees of separation: Mellon, an accomplished horticulturalist, was invited by JFK to redesign the White House Rose Garden in 1961.)

We’re talking elegant brooches, pins, bracelets, many crafted specifically for Mellon to reflect her passion for gardening, nature and wildlife, and featuring diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and all the other colorful, shiny, poly-expensive elements in the custom jewelry rainbow. It’s jet-setting stuff, to be sure.

Jewels of the Imagination: Radiant Masterworks by Jean Schlumberger from the Mellon Collection will be on view at the MFA through March 31.

Second Saturday ArtWalk

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance’s monthly walking-and-trolley-ing tour of down galleries and studios takes place this Saturday (Dec. 8) from 5 to 9 p.m. See what’s going on, and meet the artists who are doing splendid work in our community, in the Central Arts District, EDGE District, Grand Central District, Warehouse Arts District and downtown Waterfront District.

That’s around 40 studios, and approximately 200 artists, with open houses, open arms and (some of them, anyway) open wine-and-cheese invitations.

Find the map of who’s doing what, how to get there and where to park, here.

Music and other performing arts

On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Florida Orchestra’s annual Holiday Pops concert takes place (with shows at 2 and 8 p.m.) at the Mahaffey Theatre. This is one of TFO’s most popular shows of the year, and it’s led by Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik. American Idol finalist Michael Lynche – a St. Pete native – will be featured vocalist. Watch this space for an interview with Maestro Tyzik – and more about the pops show – in the coming days.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Also on the Mahaffey marquee: The annual appearances from the Moscow Ballet Great American Nutcracker Dec. 26 and 27; The lithe and limber aerial artists of Cirque Dreams Holidaze, slightly past the actual holidays on Dec. 29 and 30.

The St. Petersburg Opera Company’s annual holiday concert, Seasonal Sparkle, is Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 18 and 19, at the Palladium Theater. It features a 35-piece orchestra and full chorus on a holiday hit parade (“Sleigh Ride,” “Feliz Navidad,” the big Andy Williams “Happy Holidays” medley), and opera soloists on spellbinders such as “O Holy Night” and Dvorzak’s “Song to the Moon.” You’ll hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the assembled vocalists, and Nutcracker interpreted by Maestro Mark Sforzini and the orchestra.

Also on the Palladium marquee: Vibraphone master Jason Marsalis (Ellis’ youngest son, the brother of Wynton, Branford et al) and his 21st Century Trad Band Dec. 7; Classical music from Bach, Turina and the Palladium Chamber Players Dec. 12; Jazz guitarist Nate Najar and his trio with their annual (and always well-received) holiday special Dec. 13.

Vibraphonist Jason Marsalis



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