Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Features and More

'Aida' performers make production a family affair at the Straz Center in Tampa

TAMPA

For Gustav Andreassen and Stacey Rishoi, it is a rare treat to be working together. They are husband and wife opera singers — he's a bass, she's a mezzo-soprano — who are both performing in this weekend's Opera Tampa production of Aida.

"It's happened a few times," Rishoi said last week at their Tampa hotel. "We did a Verdi Requiem and Rigoletto together." She is singing Amneris, the Egyptian princess, and her husband is Ramfis, the high priest, in the grandest of grand operas by Verdi. But for the most part, the two are usually cast in different productions in different parts of the country, which certainly could play havoc with a marriage.

"We were talking with friends of ours, Greer Grimsley and Luretta Bybe, also opera singers (and also a bass and mezzo), and they said, 'We don't see any of our friends who stayed married but you guys,' '' said Andreassen, 43, who has known his wife since they were undergrads at University of Arizona. They have been married for 13 years.

The Andreassen-Rishoi family gained a third member with the birth of their son, Owen Lucas, 16 months ago. He is with them in Tampa, tended to during rehearsals by Stacey's mother, Sharon, who came from her home in Watertown, S.D., to lend a helping hand.

"It has been a challenge to make the marriage work, but we've gotten through all the challenges so far," said Rishoi, 42, a fairly late-in-life mother. "Even the logistics. Just to book plane tickets to be with each other at that golden time of the month when we were trying to have a family."

The couple tried for four or five years to conceive, and they think it actually happened in Tampa in 2010, when she was one of the soloists in Mendelssohn's Elijah. Andreassen, not performing elsewhere, flew in from their home in Cincinnati to spend the weekend with her.

"If it had been Anchorage, Alaska, I might not have made the trip," he said.

"We were just going to give it one more try," said Rishoi, beaming at her son, who played with the TV remote. "And look what happened. It's a dream come true to have this precious child."

Tampa was also the scene of one of Rishoi's most unusual performances. It was seven years ago in another Opera Tampa production of Aida, also with her playing Amneris and her husband as Ramfis. But that time she ended up singing the title character's role in the finale when the soprano playing Aida, Marquita Lister, lost her voice. With just a few minutes to prepare, Rishoi sight-read the part from the wings while Lister mimed the death scene on stage.

"It was surreal," Rishoi said. "I was glad to help."

"Even though Stacey is a mezzo, she's so musical, she sang the high B flats beautifully," said Andreassen, who turned pages of the score for his wife.

In this weekend's Aida, the two are delighted to be performing in the swan song of Anton Coppola, the founding conductor for Opera Tampa who is stepping down. "My first professional job was with maestro Coppola," the bass said. "I was singing in the chorus of La Boheme at Cincinnati Opera back in 1994, and he was conducting."

With their new baby, the opera parents are looking at career options. For the near future, Andreassen is planning to play Mr. Mom, because he is going to be learning the imposing role of the god Wotan in Wagner's Ring cycle. He can learn at home and work with his voice coach at the Cincinnati Conservatory.

"I'm reinventing myself, and going to take a lighter year," he said.

"It's good for the family," Rishoi said. "We've had to sacrifice, he and I both, in order to make the marriage work. And now to make the family work, it can't be a selfish career. This time, it's him making the sacrifice, but he'll also be doing the things he needs to do to learn a very difficult part. I think he's going to be a brilliant Wotan."

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

 
Comments
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Updated: 3 hours ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in...
Updated: 4 hours ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

IF YOU SAY SO: PORN STARS ARE COMEDIANSWell, it’s different. Porn Stars Are Comedians extends the concept of the podcast Porn Stars Are People ("the only podcast with porn stars where we don’t discuss porn or the business of porn"), hosted by Dan Fri...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

CLEARWATER — Hat Trick Theatre, the resident company of Ruth Eckerd Hall, closes out its season with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I must say it’s a stark choice, mainly because I can’t get two sentences into this without using the word "stark....
Updated: 7 hours ago
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

SHORTS: Art and Short Film Mini-FestA fundraiser for the [email protected] brings an Art and Short Film Mini-Fest to the studio tonight. There will be four short films, an exhibit of artwork by Corinne Leavengood and photography by Diana Lucas Leavengood. P...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

MIX MASTER: BENNY ANDREWS AT THE MFABenny Andrews was an award-winning artist known for his innovative use of collage in his paintings and works on paper, starting in the late 1950s. He was also an activist and advocate for African-American artists, ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Updated: 8 hours ago