Elizabeth Barrett was 40 years old when she married Robert Browning, who was 34, and though their love story got a late start in life, it was one to go down in the history books.
To celebrate that love story, and the love of couples all over the world, Armstrong Browning Library will hold its eighth annual Valentine’s Day Extravaganza at 2 p.m. this Saturday.
“It is a way for us to promote the Brownings and to promote the fact that they had a fantastic love story,” said Rita Patteson, director of Armstrong Browning Library. “It gives us a way to honor the people who make donations to the library. It’s just kind of a fun event that promotes love.”
The famous poets who give their name to Armstrong Browning first began corresponding through letters after Elizabeth Barrett’s highly successful volume “Poems” in 1844. They fell in love and, after meeting, eventually got married in secret because Elizabeth’s father did not approve. Afterwards, they moved to Italy together and had “a fantastic life,” Patteson said. And their love went on to inspire Elizabeth’s famous poem “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (Sonnet 43).”
The theme of this year’s extravaganza is Broadway at the Movies. The event will feature love songs from popular Broadway shows that made it to the big screens, such as “My Fair Lady,” “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
The musical selections for the Valentine’s Day Extravaganza are intended to appeal to a large range of people, from college students to residents of the Waco community, said artist-in-residence Carlos Colón. This is Colón’s third year arranging the music for the extravaganza.
“We have chosen music that will have a broad appeal,” Colón said. “Music that people will recognize as their favorite romantic tunes or love songs from these musicals.”
A number of musicians will perform at the extravaganza, but the main artist is Kimberley Fuselier Mendoza. Mendoza is a Baylor graduate who has done professional opera and musical theater in Houston and other cities.
The musical performance will be followed by a dessert reception. According to Jennifer Borderud, the associate director of Armstrong Browning Library, the reception generally includes a wide array of desserts, such as chocolate mousse, cookies, a wide selection of fruits and a coffee bar.
“I think it’s a really nice thing to do for Valentine’s Day, because it’s something different,” Borderud said. “The music is great. It’s in a beautiful place. I know my husband and I have always enjoyed coming, enjoying the music, and then the dessert reception is always great. The desserts are wonderful.”
The Armstrong Browning Library is a particularly fitting location for a Valentine’s Day event because it’s the most romantic place on campus, Patteson said.
Colón agreed that the library is a special place, and pointed out that nearly half of Baylor students graduate without ever paying a visit to the Armstrong Browning Library.
“It is the most beautiful building on campus,” Colón said. “It’s one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.”
For the Valentine’s Day Extravaganza, the appeal of the Armstrong Browning Library is not only how beautiful the building itself is, but how beautiful music sounds inside it, Colón said.
“I think the part that I enjoy the best is the way that familiar, great music connects with the memories and the imaginations of people,” Colón said.
Baylor students receive a special discount on ticket prices. With a student ID, tickets are $20 or $35 per couple.