Sunday, April 22, 2018
Stage

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma stuns at sold-out Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — From the second Yo-Yo Ma took the stage at the Mahaffey Theater, turned to the crowd and started clapping for them, it was clear:

This was going to be a gift for the people in the seats.

The world's most in-demand cellist made his debut Saturday with the Florida Orchestra in a gala concert, performing Dvorak's masterful Cello Concerto in a program led by conductor Tito Muñoz.

The event to benefit the orchestra's Music for Life fundraising campaign had been sold out for months, and you could sense the thrill from those who had a ticket.

The gala reception, concert and dinner offered sponsorship opportunities into the tens of thousands. In the end, it raised more than a half million dollars to support the orchestra, board chairman Thomas Farquhar said. He called the night "momentous."

"We are honored to have with us the most celebrated classical musician in the world," Farquhar said, before the musicians launched into Dvorak's Carnival Overture and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol. Both performances were excellent by any standards, as the anticipation for Ma roiled to a boil.

The last time Ma appeared in Tampa Bay was 2009, when he played at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Florida Orchestra leaders started negotiating this year's performance in 2013 and had Ma booked by January 2014.

Some within the organization, including orchestra CEO Michael Pastreich, are friends with Ma. That doesn't make him any easier to hire. He has arm loads of albums and Grammys, and has performed for U.S. presidents including John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.

Ma, 59, is lauded for his humanity, known to stop and talk to strangers, to offer food and jackets when he sees someone in need. Those aren't cliches. They're actual accounts.

Saturday, he sat in his chair and looked to his left and right as the orchestra began the concerto's first movement. He gripped the neck of his cello and breathed in time with the music, finding his center before that first heart-stopping draw of the bow across the strings.

Ma's soul comes through the cello, through his patience, through the wide berth of his arm, through the fingering both delicate and forceful. You must only reach that height of musical language by opening your life up to others, by having true empathy to understand the work you're playing.

Sorrow, passion and spirituality rang through the concerto, which Dvorak wrote in part for his dying and beloved sister-in-law. On Ma's very last note, he exhaled through his whole body and let go.

Of course there was a standing ovation, long enough to draw Ma out one more time. He grinned and hammed a pantomime on the instrument as the light dimmed on the rest of the orchestra. Then he gave a little parting gift, a few more minutes of music. Just Ma alone, having a moment with the crowd.

Contact Stephanie Hayes at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

Comments
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

ST. PETERSBURG — In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage. The theme for the 2018-2019 season, "A Brighter Tomorrow," color...
Published: 04/19/18
Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

HEAD WAITRESS: DESI OAKLEYThe blue collar mother who drives the plot of Waitress never thought she could win a pie-making contest, let alone start a business."She doesn’t even have the capacity to understand that she could do this," said Desi Oakley,...
Published: 04/18/18
American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

ST. PETERSBURG ­— Think early evening, daylight saving version. The earth turning away, light fading in Demens Landing Park — everywhere except the stage, which is trying its best to resurrect midday. "It looks like New York City at nigh...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

BROOKSVILLE — How about a story about two knights who gain their knighthood, lose it, then gain it back, only to lose it again?That was the concept Kyle Marra pitched nearly three years ago to Randi Olsen, founder and creative director for the Live O...
Published: 04/17/18
Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

TAMPA — Tampa made its cigars with indispensable help from Cuban immigrants. Today, 22 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, as defined by the U.S. Census. The Tampa Bay area has increasingly and proudly defined itself as a thriving perfor...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

The murder mystery/thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is loaded with potential. Playwright Peter Colley’s spooky, sometimes creepy, script has lots of surprises, scary moments and a few jokes to break the tension.And the production at Stage West C...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Review: ‘Menopause the Musical’ brings the heat to Show Palace in Hudson

For years, Show Palace Dinner Theatre patrons have begged owners Vicki and Tommy Marasciullo to bring Menopause the Musical to their Hudson venue. To be sure, the longtime showbiz couple wanted to, and the 400+ sold-out crowd opening night, followed ...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

NEW PORT RICHEY — A collaborative agreement between CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) and local entertainer Jimmy Ferraro will bring Jimmy Ferraro’s Dessert Theatre, a series of monthly variety shows, to the CARES Elfers Center stage, 4...
Published: 04/16/18
New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

TAMPA — Last year’s lavish 100th birthday party for composer and conductor Anton Coppola might have seemed like the capstone of a long career in opera. Turns out that Opera Tampa’s co-founder was not finished. The maestro’s latest opera, Lady Swanwhi...
Published: 04/14/18