Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
I've now attended my first live performance since you all know what: Music for Halloween, a "POPera" presentation by the ever plucky St. Petersburg Opera. The presentation I attended on Sunday was held at Cage Brewing in St. Petersburg, just down 1st Avenue S. from the company's headquarters. Two hours after the afternoon performance ended a second was scheduled at The Museum of Fine Arts a few miles away.
The performance took place in the outdoor patio area, the audience masked and chairs set up to facilitate social distancing. Singers could not be masked, of course, and they were closer to each other than I would have liked, considering this all took place a mere two days since a new record number of COVID cases were announced in this country and the world.
The one-hour program was chosen so as to have a tie-in to the upcoming spooky holiday. Performers were dressed in Halloween finery, often with masks when the program supported it.
Leading off was "Champagne's Delicious Bubbles," the champagne ensemble from Act II of die Fledermaus featuring brief solos by Jordan Blair, Chris Romeo, Stephanie McCranie, and the rest of the ensemble. Ten singers in all was a large complement, everything considered. Next up, "Oh, Black Swan" from The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti was sung by Aleksandra Ritums with an assist by Sarah Klopfenstein. The opera is about a woman who may or may not be able to speak to the dead. The "card trio" from Act III of Carmen by Georges Bizet was next, Sarah Klopfenstein as Mercédès, Stephanie McCranie as Frasquita, and Jordan Blair as Carmen. The trio is about Carmen and her two friends telling their fortunes with tarot cards, the friends believing they have good fortune coming while Carmen draws the card of mort, or death. Alex Boyd offered "O du, mein holder Abendstern," the prayer to the evening star from Wagner's Tannhäuser. All the ladies offered the opening witches chorus from Verdi's Macbeth. Susan Hellman Spatafora, as druid priestess Norma from Bellini's opera of the same name, sang "Casta Diva," or chaste goddess, with everyone else supplying chorus fills.
For a little musical theater, Chris Romeo delivered a very fine, gender-bending "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from Disney's The Little Mermaid and Bailee McQueen led the ladies in "Bring on the Men" from Jekyll & Hyde by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse.
The company got back to opera with the supernatural trio from the Antonia act of The Tales of Hoffman, wherein the lady's mother steps out of her portrait and induces our heroine to sing herself to death, with assistance from Dr. Miracle, this act's villain. Participating were Jordan Blair as the mother, Susan Hellman Spatafora as Antonia, and Alex Boyd as Dr. Miracle. Everything closed with a short aria for Doctor Falke leading into the Bruderlein ensemble, again from die Fledermaus.
Teresa Ancaya was at the keyboard and Maestro Mark Sforzini conducted. The musical preparation was exemplary; several of the ensembles are tricky. All of the artists are locally based. St. Petersburg Opera continues to impress me with its can-do attitude. There are a couple more events, including their very popular Season Sparkle, listed on their website between now and the holidays, although details are sketchy as to where. Outdoors seems to be a definite.
St. Petersburg Opera Company presented Music for Halloween on October 25, 2020, at Cage Brewing, 2001 First Ave S, St. Petersburg FL. For more information, please visit www.stpeteopera.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order):