James Bass has been enjoying the new music building at the University of South Florida in Tampa. As head of choral studies at the school, Bass led several vocal works for last weekend's gala opening of the concert hall.
"For me, as a conductor, it has been great,'' Bass said. "It's a relatively warm sound, and the acoustic picks up a lot of the highs, the trebles. I thought it was very responsive.''
At the Sunday matinee, the USF Chamber Singers sounded especially good in short works of Bach and Mendelssohn. Some of the larger pieces on the program, such as the premiere of Flash, Augusta Read Thomas' herky-jerky, percussive poem to lightning for orchestra and chorus, sounded a bit cramped in the 485-seat hall. Chuck Owen's work in progress, River Runs, got a fine reading by the USF Symphony and a jazz sextet, William Wiedrich conducting.
Bass is now preparing the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay for a concert in the new hall that features the premiere of Jubilate Deo, a work by Rene Clausen for chorus, brass and organ. The program includes other Clausen music, such as Red, Red Rose, Set Me as a Seal and his version of Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.
Clausen, conductor of the Concordia College Choir in Moorehead, Minn., writes music that is popular with school and church choirs. "He has a beautiful style,'' said Bass, the Master Chorale's artistic director. "It's tonal, yet he uses the choir in very expressive ways, with lots of polytonality.''
The chorale concerts, also featuring works by Mack Wilberg and Ronald Staheli, are at 7 p.m. Saturday at the USF Concert Hall, Tampa, and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg. $10, $20. Clausen leads a choral workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at USF for $40, or $50 for workshop and concert. (813) 974-7726; masterchorale.com.
The opera scene
• Joshua Quinn, 22, a tenor from Dade City, won the $3,000 first prize in Saturday's Florida Suncoast Opera Guild competition for college students and young professionals in St. Petersburg. Quinn, who plans to attend New England Conservatory, performed an aria from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Other prize winners were mezzo soprano Desiree Maira, 25, of Wellington ($2,000); soprano Phoenix Gayles, 23, of Tampa ($1,000); and soprano Ashley Dannewitz, 24, of Clearwater ($600).
• Bass-baritone Todd Donovan stars as the devil in Arrigo Boito's Mephistopheles, staged this coming weekend by New Century Opera, which has a taste for rarely performed works under artistic director Constantine Grame. Boito was a great librettist for Verdi (Otello and Falstaff), and his music is worth a listen, too. This production includes a "lost'' symphonic intermezzo and a children's ballet. Also in the cast are Rex Tabor and Michelle Smith-Sund. Sung in English with Grame at piano. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. $18, $20. (727) 942-5605; tarponarts.org.
• Opera returns to the Beach Theatre. Verdi's Aida, filmed at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, plays at 7 p.m. Sunday at the theater, 315 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach. The king of Egypt is bass-baritone Kevin Short, who often sings with Sarasota Opera.
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.