At 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 14, the Athena Music Foundation will present a concert in the Lobero Theater which it calls The Paris Salon: Age of the Romantic Virtuoso, featuring soprano Megan Weston and pianist Michael Fennelly.
The concert, an exercise in elegant and informed nostalgia, will evoke a typical evening’s performance at a Parisian salon of the 19th century.

The salon, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, is “A large room, such as a drawing room, used for receiving and entertaining guests … A periodic gathering of persons of social or intellectual distinction.”

Add several sofas, comfy chairs, music stands, and a piano, and you have the kind of salon Weston and Fennelly will recreate from the stage of the Lobero.

In the 19th century, the salons were the provenance of wealthy patrons — more often, patronesses — who divided their favors between worthless parasites and immortal geniuses, and who provided for the debut of countless masterpieces.

They were smallish gatherings, though not particularly intimate: one’s status, even that of the hostess, was in perpetual flux, and the handicapping went on nonstop. Alcohol and tobacco promoted gossip.

The salon was the meeting ground of Art and Society, and one of the institutions that inspired the culture critic Walter Benjamin to hail Paris as the Capital of the Nineteenth Century.

Of course, there will be no drinks served in the auditorium, tobacco in any form is strictly verboten, and the seats, still comfy, are more standardized, but the Lobero is small enough to make it possible to distinguish the performer’s features from the back row.

Weston and Fennelly already are famous for their warm charisma, and the music will establish its own venue as it always does. Paris, here we come!

The Financial Times has hailed Weston for her “remarkable virtuosity and charm,” while the Spanish monarchy has conferred a knighthood on Fennelly (does that make him “Don Miguel”?).

As a duo, they have performed at the Berkshire Theater Festival, the Sembrich Museum (N.Y.), the Metropolitan Opera Guild (Lincoln Center), Carnegie Hall, Dom Pedro V Theater (Macau), Tsinghua University (Beijing), and in such exotic venues as Bora Bora and Antarctica.
Together or solo, the duo will perform songs and arias by Charles Gounod, Giuseppe Verdi, Claude Debussy and Leonard Bernstein; piano works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Debussy and George Gershwin.

All seats are reserved: $40 general; $35 seniors and groups of six or more; $30 students.

For tickets and other information, call the box office, 805-963-0761, or visit

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.