Every spring, Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents one of the country's finest festival opera seasons, presenting four different productions, all in English, all with gifted young casts. The company has propelled the careers of singers from Susan Graham to Jerry Hadley, Christine Brewer to Christine Goerke, and many others, and they make a point of bringing back the artists they've nurtured in ever-larger roles.

The productions are given in the intimate Loretto-Hilton Center, with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in the pit. Before the operas, there are picnics on the lawn (bring your own, or order a meal through the box office); afterward, there's a chance to mingle with the performers over drinks in the big tent. For more information, visit opera-stl.org or call 314-961-0644. 

By Sarah Bryan Miller, Post-Dispatch classical music critic

Sarah Bryan Miller is the classical music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; she has also written on a variety of other topics.