Opera House on Both Sides of the Bay • St Pete Catalyst

It’s rare for both Tampa Bay Opera companies to hold events on the same weekend. It’s not that the St. Petersburg Opera and the Tampa Opera aren’t on good terms – they are – but that there are a finite number of opera lovers. They have to watch each other’s schedules in order to distribute wealth – and talent, as many professional singers in our region work with both organizations.

This weekend, however, there are opera opportunities on both sides of the bay.

At the Straz Center, Opera Tampa is finally ready to lift the curtain on its production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Penzance Pirates. This show has been cast, scored, rehearsed and ready to open on March 13, 2020.

It was, of course, the very day that Covid-19 cursed theaters around the world to go dark.

Opera Tampa resumed operations in February with The Tales of Hoffmann, and will end its 2022 season in April with the two short operas Gianni Schicchi and Cavalleria Rusticana on a double invoice.

This Friday and Sunday (March 11 and 13), Tthe penzance pirates navigates the stage at Ferguson Hall. Art director Robin Stamper explains that the cast is virtually the same as the nearly completed 2020 production, except for a few artists whose 2022 schedules wouldn’t allow for a return.

“It’s not exactly the same show – there’s more gags, it’s a lot more physical this time around,” Stamper says. “So it’s even better, frankly. I think it’s because so many people are comfortable with the set, and comfortable with the staging, that they can go even further.

It takes a certain kind of opera-caliber singer, he says, to handle Gilbert and Sullivan’s quick, dazzling comedic beat.

First, “You have to have great actors. Of course, we want all our opera singers to be great actors – but to be a great actress in Aida is not the same as Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s much more physical. It requires more specificity in the movement and delivery of lines, so it’s a different kind of singer.

“So if you find that kind of singer to play, they’ll almost certainly have experience already – and they’re doing it because they love it.”

This will be the second consecutive Tampa Opera production to feature the Florida Orchestra, which Stamper will conduct. (TFO’s artistic director, Michael Francis, is in line to direct the April shows).

Tickets and additional information are available here.

In Saint Pierre

Soprano Kirsten Chambers

The next major production of the Saint Petersburg Opera is The regimental girl, coming to the Palladium Theater in June. Donzinetti’s grand opera was also delayed due to the 2020 pandemic.

The company is anything but idle between full productions. This Saturday (March 12) there will be an episode of the program called “Gallery Songs” at the Mirella Cimino Art Gallery, located inside Opera Central, SPO headquarters at 1st South Ave.

This edition of “Gallery Songs” features soprano Kirsten Chambers in recital with piano accompaniment. This is part of the ArtWalk on the second Saturday in March, which always includes a stop at the Mirella Gallery.

Admission to the 6 p.m. show is free.

About Marco C. Nichols

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