Taking Opera to the Streets

July 31, 2020 | By Kurt Loft

Sunday, August 9
Downtown St. Pete

Mark Sforzini

Opera companies and orchestras across the country have fallen silent in the year of coronavirus, unable to connect with audiences and bleeding revenue as the public lockdown continues.

One venerable group – the St. Petersburg Opera Company – decided it was time to sing in a different way. . . bring its song to listeners on the street.

So instead of full performances of classics onstage, the company will devote a day “on tour’’ at four open-air locations around St. Petersburg, giving listeners plenty of space to keep their distance while they enjoy highlights from Carmen, Pagliacci and A Masked Ball.

“The coronavirus shut us down completely for the short term,’’ says Mark Sforzini, the company’s artistic director. “For operas and orchestras, it’s been devastating. So, we’re now trying to do things virtually and outdoors where we can keep our performers and audiences safe.’’

Jordan Blair Campbell, mezzo

The company kicks off its 15th season Sunday, August 9 with POPera, a pop-up outdoor float that will stop at four open spaces downtown. The free performances will be brief to keep crowds small.

“I was on Facebook and saw a friend’s thread with a picture of himself and his wife singing on a flatbed trailer,’’ Sforzini says. “It was totally safe, and then I discovered other opera companies are doing something similar.’’

Linda Hines Holloway, soprano

The four 30-minute performances will features arias and choruses from works by Bizet, Verdi, Lehar, Webber and Leoncavallo.

. . .

Singers will appear at the following times and locations on Sunday, August 9:

        • 5 p.m. – Westminster Suncoast, 1095 Pinellas Point Dr. S.
          (open to the public just north of the property on 66th Avenue South)
        • 6 p.m. – St. Pete Side Lot, 2133 2nd Ave. S.
          (open to the public)
        • 7 p.m. – Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Dr. NE.
          (open to the public on the grassy, shaded lawn north of the building)
        • 7:45 p.m. – Palladium Theater, 253 5th Ave. N.
          (open to the public in the gravel parking lot to the east of the building)
        Christopher Holloway, baritone
        • “Crowds aren’t supposed to gather for long periods so it’s good to keep moving and each of these venues has a special significances for us,’’ Sforzini explains. “And because the performances are short, I think more people might be willing to stay and listen.’’

          Although one Sunday’s touring performances can’t replace the company’s formal productions, it doesn’t mean this is a low point.”

        Chris Romeo, tenor

        “I’m looking at this as a high point for us because we’re probably going to reach a lot of people who don’t even know we exist,’’ Sforzini says. “People are hungry for entertainment, and there just isn’t a lot of live stuff going on right now.

        “We also want to remind people that we aren’t going away. We’re fighters, and we’ll fight to keep this company going.’’

        For more information, visit stpeteopera.org

        St Pete Opera – Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi

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