COLUMBIA— The Missouri Theatre is adding a twist to the definition of “dinner theater” this Thursday with its first ever a la carte event for the public.
Missouri Symphony Orchestra members will prepare dishes from their home countries for audience members to sample after the summer’s final chamber concert performance. The event is called “Ala Carte: An International Evening of Music and Food.”
“Our orchestra members come from around the world and across the country,” said Kanani May, public relations director for the Missouri Theatre. “They have a tradition where they all get together and have their own private parties and share foods from their country. We thought it would be great to bring this intimate atmosphere to our Missouri symphony patrons.”
Audience members can expect a 75-minute chamber concert where most of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra will perform, a rare event as typically only select orchestra members play at the individual concerts. After the concert, there will be a “tasting of foods of different nationalities,” said maestro Kirk Trevor, which will be set up as “tapas,” or small portions to sample the different cuisines.
Foundations for the event began about four summers ago with orchestra members from former Soviet republics getting together to talk in their shared language — Russian — about their experiences during the Cold War. Friendships soon formed.
“We said, ‘Let’s make a party of all of us cooking something from our traditional cuisines,’” said Hristo Hristov, a violist originally from Bulgaria, who has played in the orchestra for four summers.
The first year, there were about 10 dishes representing Eastern European nations including Georgia, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia and Moldova. The second summer, more orchestra members participated, adding flavors from countries such as Brazil, Taiwan, Korea and Germany.
“Last year, almost the whole cast participated, something like 30 to 34 dishes,” Hristov said.
For Ala Carte, Hristov plans on making baklava, a pastry dessert that is also found in Greece and Turkey. He is also thinking of making a traditional cold cucumber and yogurt soup called tarrator.
“I think the first year with the audience will be interesting,” Hristov said.
“It has become a little bit larger than we thought,” Trevor said. Trevor decided to add a chamber music concert and make the last one a farewell from the musicians to the typically smaller chamber audience by adding the tasting. However, there has been a lot of additional interest in this event.
“Some musicians were not sure about providing food for such a large group, but I assured them that the food has always been so good in past that just a small portion would garner a large bravo from the audience,” Trevor said.
“You don’t see this very often,” Hristov said. “I don’t think an event like this is possible in other orchestras.”
Between performing music together, dinner parties and even playing together on a soccer team, the musicians have become a close knit group.
And for one night, the rest of Columbia is invited to their dinner party, too.