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5 ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in Sarasota

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson helps the Sarasota Orchestra celebrate its 75th anniversary on Feb. 15.
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson helps the Sarasota Orchestra celebrate its 75th anniversary on Feb. 15.
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I once worked in an office with about 200 people. If you were of the female persuasion and didn't have a dozen long-stemmed red roses sitting on your desk come Valentine's Day, you burned with shame. Everyone could see that no one loved you.

The same was true in my mother's nursing home. The pecking order among residents was determined by who received the most visitors and the most flowers every day of the year, with special emphasis on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

But there are many ways to show your love for someone, and these expressions of affection don't have to take place on Valentine's Day, despite peer pressure and the exhortations of the flower, greeting card and candy makers.

What's more, the person you shower with flowers or candy for doesn't have to be a sweetheart; it can be a mother or even a friend. Witness the rise of "Galentine's Day," where women are encouraged to fete their friends.

Long before Galentine's Day became a thing, the late French-born food writer Anne de Ravel used to throw an annual bash on Valentine's Day in New York City for her friends without significant others. The champagne flowed, the food was spectacular and you left feeling happy to be single and a friend of Anne's. 

The year after my husband died, I decided to go to Rome on Valentine's Day in honor of the saint who gave the holiday its name. A friend bailed out at the last minute, but I went by myself anyway. It was strange to see what a muted affair Valentine's Day was in Rome, but it was a luxury to tour the Sistine Chapel without the crowds.

My personal rules about Valentine's Day: 1) The celebration doesn't have to happen on the actual day; and 2) Gifts and outings should reflect the tastes and sensibilities of the people involved. 

With that in mind, here are five ways to pay tribute to love that don't involve flying to India and posting a selfie at the Taj Mahal, the memorial a Mughal emperor built to honor his favorite wife, who died.

1. 'Triumph of Love'

4 p.m. Feb. 10; Church of the Palms; $35-$45, students under 18 free;

This romantic program features the U.S. premiere of "The Legend of Bijan and Manijeh," by Iranian composer Farhad Poupel for piano, choir and orchestra. The piece is based on an ancient Persian love story in the Shahnameh, an epic poem by Persian poet Ferdowsi. The program, which features concert pianist Jeffrey Biegel, also includes "The Captive Queen" by Jean Sibelius and Mahler's Adagietto from Symphony No. 5, among other works. There will be a pre-concert talk with Key Chorale Artistic Director Joseph Caulkins, Poupel and Biegel exploring the creativity behind the music.

2. ‘I Love You To the Moon and Back’

3 p.m. Feb. 11; Riverview Performing Arts Center; $30-$60;

Led by conductor Robyn Bell, The Pops is a community orchestra made up of musicians who live and work in the area. They want you to get swept away as vocalists Anne Tormela and Nick Palance sing romantic favorites from Broadway, opera and elsewhere inspired by Earth, the moon, the stars, the sky and the night. You just might feel the earth move under your feet as you ponder whether the stars are out tonight. A second concert takes place on Monday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at SCF Neel Performing Arts Center in Bradenton. 

3. Hard Heart Burlesque

8 p.m. Feb. 14; McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre; $37;

Marina Elaine and other members of Hard Heart Burlesque perform at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre on Valentine's Day.
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If you're 18 or over, head over to McCurdy's to celebrate Valentine's Day with Hard Heart Burlesque in a show they promise will appeal to everyone from heart-breakers to the broken-hearted. Presented by Marina Elaine and Karma Kandlewick, this show celebrates Hard Heart's second anniversary with a lineup featuring scantily clad showgirls, vampy vocalists and vaudevillian tricks. Whether you're trying to ignite a fire with a new flame or looking to put the spark back into a dormant relationship, you've come to the right place. 

Silver Foxx and other members of the Drag Kings of Southwest Florida will perform at Urbanite Theatre on Feb. 14.
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4. Late Night at Urbanite

9 p.m. Feb. 14; Urbanite Theatre; $27;

Following the Feb. 14 performance of "Judith," Urbanite Theatre will keep its doors open late for an unforgettable evening featuring the Drag Kings of Southwest Florida. Those 18 and over can get an electrifying introduction to the talents of Hank E Panky, Silver Foxx, Sexy Mister E, Dik Carrier and Nick D Cuple in this intimate black-box theater. Ten percent of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to support Fabulous Arts Foundation.

5. 75th Anniversary of Sarasota Orchestra

7 p.m. Feb. 15; Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; $59-$135;

Too classy for the crass commercialism of Valentine's Day? Just ignore it. Instead, on the day after Cupid's candy orgy, join the Sarasota Ochestra as they celebrate 75 years as Florida's oldest continuously operating orchestra. Creative Partner Peter Oundjian leads the orchestra in a one-night-only program sure to make your heart go pitter-patter. The concert opens with Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," followed by Joan Tower's "Fanfare No. 1 for the Uncommon Woman." Then pianist Garrick Ohlsson joins the orchestra for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Just when you thought things couldn't get any better, the program ends on a magical note with Gershwin's "An American in Paris." 



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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