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Florentine Opera will fill the air with romantic songs on Valentine's Day weekend.
Florentine Opera will fill the air with romantic songs on Valentine's Day weekend. (Photo:

Florentine Opera delivers a Valentine's Day combo of romance and music

It could be candy or flowers or a stuffed bear or a quiet dinner for two or a hot fudge sundae at Kopps or a movie or walk through Lake Park while holding hands.

But nothing says "I love you" like great romantic music.

And there is going to be nothing like the music from the Florentine Opera to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

There is a temptation to think that Valentine’s Day is the creation of the florist industry, kind of like Best Friend’s Day or My Favorite Teacher Day. But it’s a real holiday with roots stretching back to the Middle Ages.

This Valentine’s weekend is going to feature some of the most romantic songs from the world of opera, light opera and musical theater thanks to the Florentine's "Vienna: City of My Dreams," a romantic revue coming to Vogel Hall in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Friday, Feb. 12 through Sunday, Feb. 14.

One treat will be the four artists singing the classic "Edelweiss." You can see the four Von Trapp great grandchildren singing it here, but I'd bet the Florentine version will be significantly better. 

Four Florentine Studio Artists will perform: soprano Ariana Douglas, mezzo-soprano Katherine Fill, tenor Thomas Leighton and baritone Leroy Y. Davis. Accompanying them will be pianist Ruben Pilirainen and double bassist Barry Paul Clark.

Another highlight will be the fashions designed by Timothy Westbrook, a former Pfister Hotel Artist in Residence and "Project Runway" contestant now working as a designer in New York.

Information on tickets and showtimes for the event is available here.

Pere Marquette Park is one of the venues participating in Fringe Fest.
Pere Marquette Park is one of the venues participating in Fringe Fest.

Milwaukee Fringe Festival premieres this summer

Milwaukee Fringe Festival, a new, city-wide art festival, is a two-day performance and visual art event celebrating Milwaukee’s arts scene.

The non-profit event is open to emerging and experienced artists and will showcase local theater, music, dance, comedy and visual art. All of the events will be free or at a low cost.

Milwaukee Fringe Fest will take place Saturday, Aug. 27 and Sunday, Aug. 28 at Pere Marquette Park, Marcus Center’s Wilson Theater at Vogal Hall, Todd Wehr Theater and surrounding venues.

In addition, Fringe Fest will feature food trucks and a beer garden provided by Old German Beer Hall.

Milwaukee Fringe Festival is presented by renowned television and film actor Willem Dafoe, John Schneider (Theatre Professor at Marquette University, Theater X), Eric Engelbart (Shepherd Express), Matt Kemple (Milwaukee Comedy Festival), Karen Raymond and Katie Rhyme (MKE Follies) and Brian Rott (Quazimondo Physical Theatre).

Those interested in sharing their work can apply here, beginning Monday, Feb. 15. The submission fee is $15 until March 1 and $20 through March 31.

"Fringe Fest is a collaborative, interactive, inter-generational, multidisciplinary performance exhibition meant to thank the people of Milwaukee for sustaining an environment in which the arts are genuinely valued and great work is possible," says Schneider.

Company Brewing's George Bregar talks beer with Barley's Angels at a recent meeting.
Company Brewing's George Bregar talks beer with Barley's Angels at a recent meeting. (Photo: Matt Janzen, State of Craft Beer)

Local beer collaboration goes beyond just the ingredients and brew day

Barley’s Angels, a Milwaukee women’s craft beer enthusiast group, is going to be collaborating with Company Brewing to bring an exclusive beer that will be sold during Riverwest FemFest 2016.

A tropical porter with toasted coconut is on the schedule for brewing later this week with Barley’s Angels members and Company Brewing’s owner/brewmaster George Bregar working together. To make this, they will use a combination of dark roasted malts with the addition of toasted coconut to play well off the chocolate notes the malts will provide in this beer. An ABV of around 6 percent is expected and the batch size will yield only about five barrels. With this beer being such a small batch, it should spark the interest of many local craft beer lovers who like to get their hands on limited brews.

The idea behind bringing this beer together is a collaborative effort between FemFest founder Olivia Doyle, Bregar and the recipe’s developer Amanda Kindig, a member of Barley’s Angels. A vote was brought to the table in the women’s beer group, and Kindig’s recipe won.

"I've brewed the base porter four times now," Kindig noted. "I have two three gallon kegs to put my finished beers in, so this is my favorite recipe to make since I can have three gallons of plain porter and then add some flavoring additions to the other half of the batch."

Some other ingredients she has added in the past were chipotle peppers, cocoa nibs and orange peel. Kindig has been homebrewing for about two years and has had an affinity for craft beer since college. The inspiration for the addition of the toasted coconut to this porter came from Church Beer Works while visiting in Pittsburgh, where she drank their coconut stout.

Barley’s Angels Milwaukee is part of an international group with more than 80 chapters around the world whose main mission is to bring women together and learn about craft beer. They meet on the first Thursday of each month at various beer related venues around Milwau…

Is it possible to have a job teaching about beer, developing new beers and hosting beer and food pairing events? Yes, yes it is.
Is it possible to have a job teaching about beer, developing new beers and hosting beer and food pairing events? Yes, yes it is. (Photo:

How I ended up with my dream job in beer

Three years ago, if you would have explained to me what I would be doing for a living now, I would have thought you were pulling my leg.

If you would have told me that I would be spending my time building and teaching a beer education curriculum, hosting beer and food pairing events, and helping to develop new beers for nationally recognized breweries, I would have assured you that no such job existed. But as a trade brewer for Tenth and Blake Beer Company, these tasks are exactly what my job entails. Part of me is expecting to wake up any second.

I started my journey toward a beer-related career as an overzealous, impossibly green college grad with little direction besides an interest in beer and a naive curiosity toward brewing. I began brewing at home because I wanted to know more about how beer was made. You see, I am what is commonly referred to as a "know-it-all."

This undeniable fact was brought to my attention by my father at a young age then subsequently reinforced by every teacher I’ve ever had. I like to be right. I like to sound like I know what I’m talking about – whether I truly do or not is often inconsequential. This rather unbecoming character flaw has, however, fueled my desire for learning and, in-turn, served my career well.

By this point, I had brewed a handful or batches with variable success, but that did not matter. The damage was done. I realized that brewing had become embedded in my brain. I had always been interested in food and cooking – as a child, I had regularly wore out my mom’s cooking magazines – but it was the subtle differences in ingredients and the mystical nature of fermentation that drew me to brewing.

Also, during the mid-2000s, we were experiencing the early stages of what would become a bit of a brewing renaissance in the U.S., a symptom of which was the growing acceptance of adding just about anything to your beer. I recall one of the early recipes was for a cocoa, coffee, ancho chile and oatmeal stou…