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Francis, Florida Orchestra set a ‘normal’ concert season, to start in September

Bill DeYoung

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“When we’re in a season like we have been, with the pandemic, it feels like the ice will never melt in Narnia,” says musical director Michael Francis. "But then, of course it does. Winter does pass, and we head into this spring, and this positivity.' Photo: Alex McKnight.

Michael Francis is on the phone, talking about The Florida Orchestra’s most recent big score: Eighty concerts since October, for 80 live audiences, in a safe and socially-distanced environment.

“Obviously, nobody wanted this terrible pandemic, but once it happened all we could do was make the best of it,” the erudite musical director, conductor and public face of the organization says. “And from what we can see, I think we’ve made the best of it of any orchestra in North America – and possibly even the world.”

When the “small orchestra, small concerts” idea was first proposed, Francis adds, it took a “complete buy-in” from everyone in the TFO family, including the musicians … and the audience. “It takes a huge coming together of people to make something work, which is not easy. It’s easier to shut down. But we really feel the value and necessity of our art form, and why it’s so important to people right now.”

With just a few more performances left in this strictly-limited, Mahaffey Theater-only season, Francis is turning his attention ahead to the fall, when TFO will return to full concerts, with full orchestral complements of musicians playing to unrestricted houses at all three of the usual TFO venues.

Following CDC and state guidelines, all of which point to vaccination saturation and no more need for masks by September, “We’re opening big,” Francis announces.

For the first Masterworks concert, Sept. 24-26, Francis has programmed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and a newly-commissioned work from composer Michael Ippolito.

“When we’re in a season like we have been, with the pandemic, it feels like the ice will never melt in Narnia,” he explains. “But then, of course it does. Winter does pass, and we head into this spring, and this positivity. And so having Four Seasons is having a good reminder of the historical cycle of all the things that we go thorough, good and bad.

“And then Beethoven Five takes all that is dark and seemingly ominous, and then through perseverance, courage and – a word I’ve never used before – nevergiveup-ability – at the end of that symphony, what began as darkness turns to light. And then it becomes the theme of hope.”

There is a sort of “greatest classical hits” them to the new season, Francis admits.

“What we really thought about was, what do people want in coming back to sort of normality? I really wanted to get the big blockbusters in, the pieces that everybody really thinks about.

“And at the same time also make sure that we’re programming in a way that works within our approach – that is, reflecting our community.”

Season tickets are now on sale.

 

Tampa Bay Times Masterworks Series

Each ticket includes a free Pre-concert Conversation with musicians and conductors that takes a deep dive into the stories behind the music, starting one hour before the performance.

Beethoven’s Fifth

With Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Michael Francis, conductor

Jeffrey Multer, violin

With Michael Ippolito: New commission

Fri, Sept 24, 8 pm, Straz Center, Morsani

Sat, Sept 25, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Sept 26, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Thierry Caens: Contrasts (Trombone Concerto)

Andrew Sewell, conductor

Joël Vaisse, trombone

Sat, Oct 23, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Oct 24, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater — Matinee

 

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

John Williams: Escapades (From Catch Me If You Can)

Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

Michael Francis, conductor

Stefan Jackiw, violin

Joseph Beverly, saxophone

John Shaw, vibraphone

Sat, Nov 6, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Nov 7, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2

Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition

Vladimir Kulenovic, conductor

Augustin Hadelich, violin

Lera Auerbach: Icarus

Sat, Nov 13, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Nov 14, 2 pm, Straz Center, Morsani – Matinee

 

Mahler’s Symphony No. 5

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23

Michael Francis, conductor

Anne-Marie McDermott, piano

Sat, Dec 4, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Dec 5, 2 pm, Straz Center, Morsani – Matinee

 

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet

Gershwin: Concerto in F

 Akiko Fujimoto, conductor

Sara Davis Buechner, piano

Polina Nazaykinskaya: Winter Bells

Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo and Juliet

Sat, Jan 8, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Jan 9, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Brahms: Violin Concerto

Gabriela Lena Frank: APU: Tone Poem for Orchestra

Debussy: La Mer

Karen Gomyo Plays Brahms

Larry Rachleff, conductor

Karen Gomyo, violin

Sat, Jan 22, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Jan 23, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

Michael Francis, conductor

The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay

Brett Karlin, artistic director

Fri, Jan 28, 8 pm, Straz Center, Morsani

Sat, Jan 29, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Jan 30, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1

Stravinsky: The Firebird (Complete)

Michael Francis, conductor

Conrad Tao, piano

Sat, Feb 19, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Feb 20, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Time for Three/The Intersection of Americana, pop and classical

Kevin Puts: Triple Concerto for Time for Three & Orchestra

Gabriela Lena Frank: Three Latin-American Dances

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Daniel Black, conductor

Time for Three, soloists

Sat, Mar 26, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Mar 27, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater — Matinee

 

Milos Plays Concierto de Aranjuez

Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen Suite (after Bizet)

Joaquin Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez

Michael Francis, conductor

Milos, guitar

Fri, Apr 1, 8 pm, Straz Center, Ferguson

Sat, Apr 2, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Apr 3, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Mozart’s Requiem

Michael Francis, conductor

The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay

Brett Karlin, artistic director

Hildegard von Bingen: O virtus sapientiae

Mindaugas Urbaitis: Lacrimosa

Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem

Allegri: Miserere Mei, Deus

Mozart: Requiem

Fri, May 13, 8 pm, Straz Center, Morsani

Sat, May 14, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, May 15, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5

Michael Francis, conductor

Benjamin Grosvenor, piano

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

Sat, May 21, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, May 22, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Raymond James Pops Series

Featuring the best of Broadway, movie and popular music

 

Latin Fire

Enrico Lopez-Yañez, conductor

José Sibaja, trumpet

Mónica Abrego, vocalist

TFO celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with high-octane Latin American orchestral hits, featuring trumpet fireworks by Jose Sibaja, who has recorded with Ricky Martin and more. Featuring music from Astor Piazzolla, Arturo Marquez, Georges Bizet and many more.

Sat, Oct 9, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sat, Oct 9, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Oct 10, 2 pm, Straz Center, Morsani – Matinee

 

Fly Dance Company: Breakin’ Classical

Stuart Malina, conductor

The ultimate collaboration of street dance and live orchestra. The Gentlemen of Hip-Hop give street cred to Stravinsky and let it fly to Vivaldi in a colorful, theatrical experience filled with thrilling live music and jaw-dropping dance moves. For more on Fly Dance Company, click here.

Sat, Oct 30, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater – Matinee

Sat, Oct 30, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

 

Holiday Pops

Bob Bernhardt, conductor

Lumina Youth Choirs

We’ve got all of Santa’s favorites – Sleigh Ride! – and more at our most popular concert of the year. When you’re longing for holiday classics, there’s no place like The Florida Orchestra for the whole family.

Fri, Dec 10, 8 pm, Straz Center, Ferguson

Sat, Dec 11, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater – Matinee

Sat, Dec 11, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Dec 12, 2 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall – Matinee

Sun, Dec 12, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

The Wild West

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE JAMES MUSEUM

Daniel Black, conductor

Music and images that evoke the spirit, landscape and history of the Wild West, including music from Copland’s Rodeo and more. Presented in partnership with The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

Fri, Jan 14, 8 pm, Straz Center, Ferguson

Sat, Jan 15, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

 

Music of Star Wars

Enrico Lopez-Yañez, conductor

The power of The Force is in the music. Take a journey through the most popular and critically acclaimed themes from every film in the saga, composed by the Jedi master of movie music, John Williams.

Fri, Feb 25, 8 pm, Straz Center, Morsani

Sat, Feb 26, 2 pm, Mahaffey Theater – Matinee

Sat, Feb 26, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Feb 27, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

The Paul Simon Songbook

Stuart Malina, conductor

Daniel Berryman, vocalist

Emily Drennan, vocalist

Paul Loren, vocalist

An evening of music from the legendary Paul Simon explores his unique artistry as a songwriter from his years with Simon and Garfunkel through his solo albums Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. Songs include Bridge Over Troubled Water, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard, The Sound of Silence, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints.

Sun, Mar 13, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

America’s Wonders

A 3D CINEMATIC & MUSICAL CELEBRATION

Daniel Black, conductor

Take off on an epic musical adventure through 26 of America’s most breathtaking national parks and 11 captivating cities, featuring stunning 3D video on a giant LED screen. The Florida Orchestra performs the music live, including Grand Canyon Suite, New York, New York, Carolina on my Mind and much more. We’ll take you there. Without ever leaving your concert chair.

Sat, Mar 19, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

 

Broadway Pops

Your favorite show tunes from Broadway’s storied past and present. With unforgettable melodies and beautiful lyrics, it’s an evening of romance, drama and humor from the greatest shows ever on stage. 

Fri, Apr 8, 8 pm, Straz Center, Morsani

Sat, Apr 9, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, Apr 10, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

Superhero Soundtracks

Stuart Chafetz, conductor

Dust off your cape and come dressed as your favorite superhero (or villain) for a concert featuring some of the most memorable themes of all time from blockbusters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and more.

Fri, Apr 29, 8 pm, Straz Center, Ferguson

Sat, Apr 30, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater

Sun, May 1, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

 

 

Coffee Series

Light symphonic favorites in two series: the 9-concert package at the Mahaffey Theater on Thursdays and the 5-concert package at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Wednesdays.

Bonus! Free Pre-concert Conversation included with every ticket, starting at 10 am.

 

Bohemian Masters

Stuart Malina, conductor

Spend a lovely morning in the Bohemian countryside with music from Smetana, Dvorak, Bartok, Chopin and more.

Thu, Oct 28, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Opera Overtures

Sameer Patel, conductor

Beautiful music that captures the drama and romance of the opera, from Mozart to Verdi. (This concert does not include a vocalist.)

Thu, Nov 18, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

British Gems

Stuart Malina, conductor

Take a trip across the pond with music from Walton, Britten, Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Thu, Jan 13, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Star-crossed Lovers

Michael Francis, conductor

Through the centuries, the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet has enthralled composers, featuring works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Bernstein.

Thu, Feb 3, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Viva España

Stuart Malina, conductor

Jonathan Godfrey, guitar

From Ravel’s Bolero to Bizet’s Carmen and more, enjoy the sensational sounds of Spain, featuring the classical guitar.

Wed, Feb 23, 11 am, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Thu, Feb 24, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Classical America

Stuart Malina, conductor

Stuart Malina celebrates America’s great composers, with music by Gershwin, Howard Hanson and more.

Wed, Mar 16, 11 am, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Thu, Mar 17, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

From Russia with Love

Daniel Black, conductor

The best of Russia’s powerful yet poetic composers, including Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Wed, Apr 6, 11 am, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Thu, Apr 7, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Changing Seasons

Stuart Malina, conductor

From the frost of winter to the flutter of spring, the changing seasons have inspired composers such as Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Verdi and more.

Wed, Apr 27, 11 am, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Thu, Apr 28, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

Music of John Williams

Stuart Malina, conductor

The iconic composer has created some of the most recognizable and critically acclaimed music in cinematic history, from Star Wars to E.T. to Saving Private Ryan.

Wed, May 4, 11 am, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Thu, May 5, 11 am, Mahaffey Theater

 

 

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