Maestro Mark Sforzini and four singers from the St. Petersburg Opera Company were at the Lake Seminole Square community Thursday morning for a private pop-up concert. With piano accompaniment, the vocalists performed three 25-minute shows, at three locations, from the bed of a 14-foot flatbed trailer.
Outdoors, socially distanced, masks required.
Sforzini, the company’s founder, executive and artistic director, emceed. “A lot of people listened from their balconies,” he explains, “and a lot of others came outside to listen, and followed us around to each stop – and heard all three shows, because each one was a little different.”
He’s well known for his engaging pre-concert “maestro talks” (with music) at the Museum of Fine Arts and other venues; more than six month have elapsed since he’s been able to get onstage and expound, explain and entertain – much less conduct a full orchestra.
The Lake Seminole experience, Sforzini says, was “a lot of fun. It’s great to be back in my element. I love to see the crowd, I love to talk about opera, and the performers, and the arias they’re singing.”
St. Pete Opera’s “Popera” series began Aug. 9, from the back of the truck (which is dolled up with a drape, a plant, a brick façade and other niceties).
At the third and final stop that day – outside the MFA – opera staff counted 400 people.
“I was so happy to see how thirsty the community was for live performance,” the maestro explains. “And even though it rained at the first stop, the people just pulled out their umbrellas! Nobody left. We kept performing until it started thundering and raining really hard. And in typical Florida fashion, the weather was clear everywhere else.”
Russell Andrade, John Kaneklides and Chris Romeo – three tenors – will truck in for the next pop-up opera show Sept. 13. The afternoon-into-evening schedule calls for free performances at the Westminster Palms community and again at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In between, the second show is scheduled for the St. Petersburg Side Lot; that event is ticketed (link here).
A Covid-free future, of course, is hazy at best. Like all performing arts nonprofits, St. Petersburg Opera Company is adapting.
“One of things we’ve learned during this period is, people are excited about outdoor opera,” says Sforzini. “And it’s a great way to reach a lot of people. And we’ve learned about technology things, too. So we’ll also maintain some streaming-type stuff.
“We should have been doing this all along as an entertainment offering. So I think when we get back to what is normal for us, we’re still going to be going around doing pop-up opera, because we’re reaching a lot of people who didn’t even know that there was an opera company.”