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Coming soon: Opera on both sides of the bay

Bill DeYoung



Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" arrives at the Straz Center this weekend - two years after it was originally scheduled. Photo: Will Staples.

It’s a rare occasion when both Tampa Bay opera companies have events scheduled on the same weekend. It’s not that St. Petersburg Opera and Opera Tampa aren’t on friendly terms – they are – but that there’s a finite number of opera fans to go around. They have to watch each other’s schedule in order to spread the wealth – and the talent, as many of our area’s professional singers work with both organizations.

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

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

That was, of course, the very day Covid-19 cursed theaters everywhere to go dark.

Opera Tampa got back to business in February with The Tales of Hoffman, and will end its 2022 season in April with the two short operas Gianni Schicchi and Cavalleria Rusticana on a double bill.

This Friday and Sunday (March 11 and 13), The Pirates of Penzance sails onto the stage at Ferguson Hall. Artistic director Robin Stamper explains that the cast is virtually the same as the almost-made-it 2020 production, save for a couple of performers whose 2022 schedules wouldn’t allow a return.

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

It takes a certain kind of opera-caliber vocalist, he says, to handle the razzle-dazzle rapid comic patter of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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 thing as Gilbert and Sullivan. This is a lot more physical. It requires more specificity in movement and delivering lines, so it is a different kind of singer.

“So if you find that kind of singer to perform, they will almost assuredly already have experience – and they do that because they love it.”

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

Tickets and additional information are available here.


In St. Pete

Soprano Kirsten Chambers

St. Petersburg Opera’s next big production is La fille de Regiment, coming to the Palladium Theater in June. The grand opera by Donzinetti was also delayed because of the pandemic back in 2020.

The company is anything but idle in between full productions. This Saturday (March 12), there’ll be an episode of the program called “Gallery Songs” in the Mirella Cimato Gallery of Art, located inside Opera Central, SPO’s headquarters on 1st Avenue South.

This edition of “Gallery Songs” features soprano Kirsten Chambers in recital with piano accompaniment. It’s part of the March Second Saturday ArtWalk, which always includes a stop at the Mirella gallery.

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








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