Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

March Madness
St. Petersburg Opera Company
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Camelot

Sarah Nordin and Tyler Putnam
Photo Courtesy of
Exciting news has been announced by St. Petersburg Opera Company, but more of that later, as they are presenting their monthly POPera concert, this time called March Madness. This interestingly chosen program is all selections in which characters are at the end of their wits, but it manages not to include even one famous mad scene such as Lucia's from Lucia di Lammermoor. The program is sponsored by Charlotte and James Edmiston in honor of mezzo soprano Sarah Nordin, with her husband bass Tyler Putnam getting a strong supporting role, and tenors Eric Ferring and Chris Romeo sharing. Alejandro Donawa, Rim Karnavicius and Vlad Markov help out with male chorus parts.

Ms. Nordin gets things off to a great start with "Ah, scostati! ... Smanie implacabili," Dorabella's first aria from Cosi fan tutti by Mozart. She believes her boyfriend has just been called to war and she rages at everyone around her to close all the blinds and keep the room dark as she madly mourns her fate. The aria (and entire role) is a great fit for this singer. Next, Mr. Ferring offers "Il tuo sangue, ed il tuo zelo" from Handel's Ariodante. I am a big fan of Mr. Ferring's lush lyric voice. He recently sang a Rossini aria beautifully, but Handel's equally florid writing is very different from Rossini's and not a particularly good fit for this singer. It is cleanly sung, but without Handelian style. Ditto his later Handel aria toward the middle of the program. Mr. Putnam sings Fernando's aria which begins Verdi's Il trovatore. As Fernando is not a major character, he does not rate or get a great aria, although the singer attempts to make the most of it. Ms. Nordin follows up with "Stride la vampa" from the same opera, sung by Azucena, one of the four principal roles and a far better piece of music. Here the character remembers a tragedy that befell her mother as she slips in and out of delirium.

Mr. Ferring in much more comfortable repertoire with Lenski's aria, which precedes a duel in which he is killed. Next comes Rossini, Semiramide to be exact, which believe it or not was the very first opera your reviewer ever saw live. Here, Assur, the title character's husband, is haunted by ghosts as he remembers a past bad act. Mr. Putnam, not a natural for this composer, still acquits himself very strongly.

Chris Romeo makes his evening debut with "No! Pagliacci non son" from Leoncavallo's I oagliacci. "Vesti la giubba" is the better known aria, but this one does show the title character descending into madness as his world crumbles around him. Mr. Romeo has a big beefy sound for this dramatic role. Now a slice of Verdi's Rigoletto, act four, beginning with the Duke's exit from the scene, singing a bit of "La Donna è mobile" and the trio before the storm featuring a guest appearance by Linda Holloway as Gilda, Ms. Nordin as Maddelena, and Tyler Putnam as Sparafucile. I don't know what this has to do with madness, but all three characters are in a highly agitated state, although when aren't people in opera?

Mr. Ferring sings his second Handel selection, "Tuo drudo e mio rivale" from Rodelinda, and Mr. Putnam follows with Mephistopheles' taunting serenade "Vous qui faites l'endormie" from Gounod's Faust. Here, a costume would have helped the youngish Mr. Putnam put more menacing charm into the aria. Older voices can sometimes project this character a touch better without one.

Mr. Ferring returns with his best singing of the night, a haunting "Nebbie" by Respighi about being surrounded by heavy mists. Mr. Putnam continues to show his value as a Verdian with "Come dal ciel precipita," Banquo's aria from Macbeth. The concert closes with the final duet from Carmen by Ms. Nordin and Mr. Romeo.

Stephen M. Ray, Jr. again presides with a narrative by Maestro Sforzini.

Accompaniment brings a new face, Richard Cordova on piano with assists from Joseph Beverly on clarinet and bass clarinet, Nancy Corporon on horn, and David Tagliarini on flute, piccolo and clarinet. Artistic Director Mark Sforzini conducts several selections and chimes in with his trusty bassoon.

And now for the exciting news: next month's concerts will find St. Petersburg Opera back at their home base, The Palladium, for two of the three shows, with one at Cage Brewing. Scheduled are Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge and opera selections with what appears to be a full afternoon, accompanied by a thirteen-piece orchestra—a new post-pandemic high.

June promises a full performance of I Pagliacci at the Palladium featuring Mr. Romeo. Clearly, this spunky company continues to lead the way on how to reopen more and more. I for one am very excited.

March Madness runs through March 28, 2021, at St. Petersburg Opera Company and other locations in St. Petersburg FL. For more information, please visit

Principal Cast:

Eric Ferring, tenor
Linda Holloway, soprano
Sarah Nordin, mezzo
Tyler Putnam, bass
Chris Romeo, tenor