Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Opera Harvest
St. Petersburg Opera Company
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Maestro Mark Sforzini
Photo Courtesy of St. Petersburg Opera
In order to keep audiences entertained yet safe, the weekend of November 20-22 brought a three performance POPera program from St. Petersburg Opera, one carefully socially distanced (audience and performers) at Opera Central, their headquarters on Friday, and two repeats at outdoor locations on Sunday. I attended the earlier Sunday performance again held at Cage Brewing in St. Petersburg. Several local performers plus Maestro Mark Sforzini on bassoon, special guest artist Natalie Hoe, first chair from the Florida Orchestra on clarinet for several selections were accompanied by Teresa Ancaya on piano, and presented a program of mostly audience favorites plus a few surprises but without an arc. A small but intrepid audience had a good time.

Husband and wife Linda Hines Holloway, soprano, and Christopher Holloway, baritone, opened the program with "Crudel! Perche finora" from The Marriage of Figaro, wherein the Count Almaviva attempts to seduce his wife's maid Susanna. The two have excellent chemistry on stage, he showing excellent acting chops through the program, while hers is more standard opera acting. Later in the program he offered "Dulcinea" from The Man of La Mancha, they dueted on three Rodgers and Hammerstein selections ("People Will Say We're in Love," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful," and "I Have Dreamed), and she chose "Quando m'en vo" (also known as "Musetta's Waltz") from La Boheme as her solo. Recently I have been known to carp about opera singers attempting musical theater material but these two showed that in certain instances there is not that wide a gulf and it can be navigated carefully. These were lovely performances, especially "Dulcinea." Also, someone has been listening to the 1979 revival cast album of Oklahoma! because that someone inserted a line used by Laurence Guittard as Curly ("Who laughs at your jokes?") that is not in Oscar Hammerstein's original script.

Mezzo Sara Klopfenstein returned from last month's Halloween program with all new choices. First she sang a short aria from act three of Werther, not the better known and showier letters aria from earlier in the same scene. This opera is known for saxophones in the orchestra for the first time and this aria features them prominently. Mark Sforzini on his bassoon played the solo beautifully and, if I closed my eyes, managed to imitate them. Ms. Klopfenstein's next selection was the "Seguidilla" from act one of Carmen, also featuring Ms. Hoe and Mr. Sforzini to give the rhythmic underpinning some zing. The least well known selection on the program was "Must the Winter Come So Soon" from Samuel Barber's 1958 opera Vanessa. This aria comes early on and sets the stasis which pervades the lives of all its characters, and Ms. Klopfenstein standing rigidly captured that, although I am not sure if all audience members would quite understand. Our mezzo closed the program with the well known "Parto, parto ma tu ben mio" by Mozart and from La Clemenza di Tito. The beautiful clarinet obbligato was in good hands with Ms. Hoe.

Tenor Eric Ferring lists posts at some prestigious young artists programs and high profile engagements canceled due to COVID conditions, including covers at The Metropolitan Opera, in his resume. The voice is big, big enough to fill the large theaters he had engagements with. He sported a gorgeous long-lined legato in his two selections, "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from Donizetti's The Elixir of Love and "Il Mio Tesoro" from Don Giovanni. I hope and pray that when St. Petersburg Opera is able to mount its long delayed Daughter of the Regiment that Mr. Ferring is the Tonio belting out "Ah Mes Amis" with its nine high C's.

Tenor (although up until his second selection you could have fooled me) Chris Romeo returned from the Halloween program to repeat his audience-demanded "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from Disney's The Little Mermaid, sung totally in chest voice and sounding completely like a Broadway baritone. I learned what he is really capable of late in the program when he totally surprised me with Puccini's "E Lucevan le stelle" from Tosca.

St. Petersburg returns next month with a reconfigured version of their annual "Holiday Sparkle," details to follow.

St. Petersburg Opera Company presented Opera Harvest on November 20-22, 2020, at various locations in St. Petersburg, FL. For more information, please visit

Singers (in alphabetical order): Eric Ferring, Tenor
Christopher Holloway, Baritone
Linda Hines Holloway, Soprano
Sarah Klopfenstein, Mezzo Soprano
Chris Romeo, Tenor

Instrumentalists: Teresa Ancaya, Piano
Natalie Hoe, Clarinet
Mark Sforzini, Bassoon