ST. PETERSBURG — The Palladium Theater was founded in 1998 as an affordable venue for homegrown performers, and it continues to follow that mission, but it will also present a number of touring classical musicians and Broadway performers in the 2011-12 season. The highlights:
• Caroline Goulding (Nov. 16), an up-and-coming violinist, headlines the Young Concert Artist Series, which includes violinist Hahn-Bin (Jan. 18) and pianist Charlie Albright (April 18).
• The Palladium's Broadway Cabaret Series features a pair of Tony Award nominees, Marc Kudisch (Jan. 21) and Emily Skinner (March 22).
"I was looking for areas in the market where we could make a statement," executive director Paul Wilborn says. "With the Young Concert Artist Series, I felt like we could make it a community event where we could offer free or reduced tickets to students, and the artists will do a master class. I think it could be a big deal for the music community and especially the student music community."
At 18, Goulding already has been nominated for a Grammy Award, for her debut recital CD two years ago, and performed as a soloist with the likes of the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and Dallas Symphony.
Skinner made her name on Broadway as one of the Siamese twins (with Alice Ripley) in Side Show. She's now playing Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot. Kudisch, who was nominated for Tonys for his performances in 9 to 5, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thoroughly Modern Millie, has a cabaret show titled What Makes Me Tick.
Three Men and a Baby . . . Grand! (April 21), the third show in the series, features John Boswell, Brian Lane Green and Lee Lessack in Broadway and Frank Sinatra standards.
Wilborn, a musician himself (as well as a former reporter with the St. Petersburg Times), is especially looking forward to the Broadway Cabaret Series. "I handpicked these to start it off," he said. "I think we're a perfect venue for those kinds of things."
Even performers as well known as Goulding, Kudisch and Skinner don't command fees of more than $10,000, making them a reasonable risk. "I think it would be very hard to fail with them," Wilborn said.
The Palladium still takes a grass-roots approach, with rentals to community arts organizations making up about half its business, according to Wilborn. These include St. Petersburg Opera, whose season opens Sept. 30 with Die Fledermaus; the Academy of Ballet Arts' Nutcracker Nov. 30 to Dec. 4; and the Encore chamber music series that begins Jan. 25.
Also notable this season is the American Stage production of August: Osage County (Oct. 22-30). The 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner by Tracy Letts is a sprawling show that the theater company thinks will work better in the Palladium than in its own smaller home.
Another large-scale production is Cirque des Voix (March 24-25), a "choral circus" by Circus Sarasota and the Key Chorale.
The Tampa Bay Symphony, a volunteer orchestra, will play at the Palladium for the first time, opening its season Nov. 1 with a program anchored by Sibelius' Symphony No. 2, John Bannon conducting. Previously, the group played St. Petersburg concerts at Mahaffey Theater.
"It's going to be crowded," Wilborn says of accommodating the orchestra on the stage of Hough Concert Hall, which seats 850. "They believe they can fit. We think it's going to work."
Other bay area musical groups in the Palladium lineup are the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay (March 30) and the men's chorus Una Voce (April 28).
One of the first shows in the Palladium season is the Nate Najar Trio (Sept. 22), playing the downstairs Side Door Cabaret, which has cultivated an audience for jazz, blues and folk music. "Our cabaret room is about my favorite place," Wilborn says. "It came into its own in the last year, consistently selling 100 to 175 tickets for mostly local performers."
Eclectic mix in Tarpon
Tarpon Springs also has an eclectic, mostly Tampa Bay-oriented series of performing arts. Opera is one of the themes of its 2011-12 season, highlighted by three productions by the resident New Century Opera. Artistic director Constantine Grame has a taste for works that don't get staged often (if ever) in the bay area, such as Mozart's La clemenza di Tito (Dec. 2-3) and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (Jan. 6, 7 and 14).
Other operatic performances include soprano Lauren Grame's Sept. 25 recital of works from Puccini, Vivaldi, Mozart, Schumann and Wagner; soprano Julia Coulmas' tribute to Brazilian opera singer Bidu Sayao on Oct. 27; and a concert by soprano Maria Zouves on Feb. 24. Florida Lyric Opera and the Florida Boys Choir perform Amahl and the Night Visitors Dec. 17-18.
Several ensembles from the Florida Orchestra are performing in Tarpon Springs, including the brass quintet's popular Christmas concert (Dec. 11). Other classical music programs feature pianists Joseph Schwartz (Jan. 29), Louis Demetrius Alvanis (March 3) and Trio Da Camera (April 29).
Singing Tree, with Ray Belanger on hammered dulcimer and Lloyd Goldstein on double bass, play “folk music with a classical twist” Sept. 30.
Touring artists in Tarpon this season include the Golden Dragon Acrobats (Jan. 11); guitarist Alex DeGrassi performing his original score to accompany a showing of the 1934 silent film classic, A Story of Floating Weeds (Jan. 21); the Irish band Cherish the Ladies (Jan. 27); Frank Ferrante's one-man show, An Evening With Groucho (Feb. 26); and folk dance by the Tamburitzans of Duquesne University (Feb. 29).
The Gulf Coast Folklife Center, funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, draws from Tarpon's Greek heritage and others for programming ranging from Kalymnian violin workshops with Panayotis League (Nov. 18-20) to a Hawaiian quilting workshop with Ginger LaVoie (Nov. 19).
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.