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Highlights of fine art in St. Pete this year include in depth exhibitions on the work of historic masters, a show of works by three internationally recognized glass artists, two classic opera presentations and the reprise of a musical about a 1920s publicity scandal in St. Petersburg, taking the stage in 2020. LEFT: Paul Cezanne, "Still Life with Cherries and Peaches" (detail), 1885-1887, LA County Museum. The painting is part of the upcoming exhibition True Nature: Rodin and The Art of Impressionism coming to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art in December 2020.

The new year is an exciting time for the arts in St. Petersburg. Museums, galleries and performing arts groups in the city offer residents a chance to enjoy first class opera, work by some of the genre's most renowned glass artists, an exclusive, in-depth view of surrealism featuring rarely seen masterworks, a musical crafted from a true story about the 1920s and the Sunshine City, and a spectacular look at the work of master artist August Rodin, all in St. Petersburg.

This month, Duncan McClellan Gallery presents Luminaries of Glass opening for Second Saturday Artwalk on Saturday Jan. 11. The show features the work of internationally known glass artists Richard Jolley, Deanna Clayton and Lisabeth Sterling.

Starting in his early career, artist Richard Jolley has been a part of some of glass art's most important exhibitions at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Suppora, Japan, the international Exhibition of Glass in Kanagawa, Japan, the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey and Laumier Sculpture Park in Missouri. He has been included in museum exhibitions surveying contemporary glass and sculpture at Museum of Fine Art in Boston, The Renwick Gallery at The Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Carnegie Museum of Art, the Corning Museum of Glass and LA County Museum of Modern Art. He has completed a multitude of public commissions including his sculpture "Everything and The Cosmos," permanently installed at 7 World Trade Center in New York in 2007. Richard Jolley will offer a demonstration during the January Artwalk Opening.

Deanna Clayton has been working in glass art for 25 years, creating vessels and figurative works and specializing in the glass casting technique, patte de vere. Clayton has taught at Corning Glass in New York and the Cleveland Institute of Art as well as DMG Glass in St. Pete. Her studio, DC Studios, LLC, is designed to educate others in the ancient technique of patte de vere and dedicated to creating new and exciting works that embrace the technique.

Lisabeth Sterling creates the illusion of three-dimensional images on glass vessels, layering colored and colorless glass. Her work is part of permanent collections in the Wheaton Museum of American Glass, the American Interfaith Institute and numerous private collections. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Uniersity of Minnesota and Pilchuk Glass School. She has said of her work, "The images in my engravings are much like lucid dreams on glass."

This year, St. Pete Opera presents Rigoletto January 24, 26 and 28 and La Fille du Regiment May 29-31 and June 2-7.

Based on the Victor Hugo play, Le roi s'amuse, Rigoletto is considered to be the first operatic masterpiece of Verdi's mid career. It tells the story of an evil nobelman who seduces and ruins his conquests, and the efforts of a Court Jester to protect his own daughter from the Count's attempts. Though initially controversial in its time, Rigoletto has grown to be a classic opera favorite.

La Fille du Regiment by Gaentano Donizetto centers on themes of love and loyalty, telling the story of Marie, a canteen girl for the French Army's 21st Regiment, who falls in love with Tonio, a civilian. Sung in its native French with English subtitles, La Fille is a relatively modern work, first performed in Paris in 1940. Donizetti's arias are known for his use of the "high C," and Tonio's aria in "Ah mes amis" in La Fille contains 9 of them.

St. Pete Opera offers new editions of its Maestro series for both productions. In the series, Maestro Mark Szorfini offers inside looks at SPO's main stage presentations, frequently with musical support from production stars and cast. Mornings with the Maestro previewing Rigoletto, at the St. Petersburg Museum of Modern Art takes place at 11 am on Friday, Jan 10 and Cocktails with the Maestro takes place Thursday, Jan 9 at 6 pm at The Iberian Rooster.

The Dali Museum presents Midnight in Paris: Surrealism at The Crossroads through April 8, 2020. The museum is currently the only North American venue for the exhibit, which examines the works, friendships and clashes of historic surrealist artists, including Dali. It is designed to give visitors the experience of strolling through the streets of Paris, viewing the paintings, photographs, sculptures and personalities of the icons of the surrealist movement. The exhibition includes archival film and documents from the movement and several rarely loaned Dali works, including one of his earliest double-image paintings. Organized with the Centre Pompidou Paris and curated by Dr. William Jeffett, Chief Curator of Special Exhibitions at The Dali Museum and Didier Ottinger, Deputy Director of the Musee National d'art Moderne at The Centre Pompidou, bringing to life the relationships and passions of its activist artists, energized by the political climate surrounding World War I that threatened to fragment the surrealist movement just as it began to become part of mainstream Western Culture, including insights into the lives of Jean Arp, André Breton, Luis Bruñuel, Alexander Calder, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy and others,

Sunshine City: The Musical at St. Pete City Theater April 17-26, tells a true story of 1920s St. Petersburg, when a press release and publicity campaign proffered that sea vamps in skimpy bathing suits crowded city beaches. Frank Fortune Pulver, a St. Pete Mayor of the 20s, gained publicity for the city by posing for a photo on the beach pretending to measure the length of one-piece bathing suits for The St. Petersburg Purity League, a fictitious organization made up for the cause. The campaign successfully led to a boom in tourism. Written by two St. Pete residents, Dewey Davis-Thompson and Tom Sivak, and presented in different forms locally since 2015, Sunshine City, a musical about St. Pete in the 1920s, has a special flavor in 2020.

In True Nature: Rodin and The Age of Impressionism, at the St. Petersburg Museum of Modern Art December 19, 2020 through April 25, 2021, some of Rodin's most important works are presented alongside paintings by his most celebrated peers. The exhibition includes more than 60 Rodin masterpieces including "Monument to Honoré Balzac" (1897), "Saint John the Baptist Preaching" (1878), and "Jean d’Aire" (1886), and major paintings including Claude Monet’s "In the Woods at Giverny" (1887), Paul Cézanne’s "Still Life with Cherries and Peaches" (1885-1887), Edgar Degas’ "The Bellelli Sisters "(1865-1866), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s "Two Girls Reading" (1890-1891). Consummate photographs, drawings, and sculptures by other masters of the period are also presented. The exhibition focuses on revealing Rodin's extraordinary powers of observation and ability to capture emotion and movement. It is organized by The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The year 2020 will be an artful one in St. Petersburg, to say the least.

2020 Fine Art Highlights
by Frances Brennan

"Aloof" by Deanna Clayton, part of "Luminaries of Glass" at The Duncan McClellan Gallery this month. Photo courtesy of Duncan McClellan Glass.
"Speed Is No Object" by Lisabeth Sterling, from "Luminaries of Glass" at The Duncan McClellan Gallery this month. Photo courtesy of Duncan McClellan Glass.