Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida Orchestra teams up with Shakespeare

Actors from American Stage perform scenes from The Tempest Friday, with the Florida Orchestra behind them.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Actors from American Stage perform scenes from The Tempest Friday, with the Florida Orchestra behind them.

ST. PETERSBURG — Voices and lights in the dark opened the Florida Orchestra's concert Friday morning at Mahaffey Theater. "Speak! Speak! I charge thee speak!" one of the voices cried out.

It's Denmark, and the ghost of Hamlet's father is on the castle battlements, but he will not speak. After this scene from Shakespeare's tragedy was performed by a quartet in black — Gavin Hawk, Meg Heimstead, Joe Parra and Brian Shea — the orchestra behind the actors launched into Tchaikovsky's Hamlet.

As part of St. Petersburg's Shakespeare Festival, the orchestra and American Stage have produced an entertaining matchup of the Bard and Tchaikovsky that also includes two more of the composer's tone poems, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, with the actors also performing from those plays. Andrew Grams was guest conductor of the program, which was staged by Todd Olson, artistic director of the theater, and they kept the action moving, with no awkward pauses between drama and music. It helped that the actors, using face mikes and wearing costumes (especially fanciful for The Tempest), are among the best in the Tampa Bay area, and that Tchaikovsky's music is so catchy.

Highlights included the extensive oboe solo in Hamlet, played by Xiaodi Liu, occupying the principal's chair this weekend; Mercutio's Queen Mab speech, spoken by Hawk, in Romeo and Juliet; and the booming bass drum (played by David Coash) in all the stormy music.

Grams, interim resident conductor of the orchestra in 2007-08, did something I haven't seen since Jahja Ling was music director. Instead of massing the first and second violins to the conductor's left, as they usually are, he divided the sections, with the firsts remaining to his left and moving the seconds to his right. He had the double basses at the back of the orchestra to his left instead of their customary position to his right.

Conductors often divide the violins in Mozart and Haydn symphonies for antiphonical effect, but having them across from each other is less common for the big Technicolor sound of Tchaikovsky. Some musicians may have felt it presumptuous for a guest conductor — Grams is also a fine violinist — to fiddle with their seating, but I thought the change freshened things up. The violas, for example, were heard more clearly.

Unlike previous Friday morning concerts, this one had a good-sized turnout of more than 1,100, including several hundred schoolchildren who were bused there under the orchestra's education program. Tchaikovsky is not a bad introduction to classical music, because many people fall under his spell early.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.if you go

Program repeats at 8 p.m. today at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $15, $30, $45. (727) 892-3337; floridaorchestra.org.

Florida Orchestra teams up with Shakespeare 01/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 10:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Frozen pops for breakfast? A perfect recipe for summer

    Cooking

    In the heat of the summer when you trade your hot coffee for iced, why not add some extra chill to your morning smoothie, too? That's essentially what these fun breakfast pops are: a frozen smoothie on a stick.

    Strawberry Almond Breakfast Pops are essentially a frozen smoothie on a stick, perfect for the heat of summer.
  2. Recipe for Chicken Wings with Coconut Sweet Potato Puree

    Cooking

    This dish is an homage to one of my favorite Epcot International Food and Wine Festival dishes: Grilled Beef Skewer With Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree from the Patagonia kiosk. A boniato is a sweet potato with whiter flesh and a typically sweeter flavor. I use standard sweet potatoes in this recipe, plus a little …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  3. The 'Total Eclipse' song from the '80s you never knew you loved

    Blogs

    Depending on when you read this, you are eagerly awaiting the eclipse or have seen all the commotion come and go for the first total solar eclipse across America since 1918. Without any doubts, sometime today you will probably have a chance to hear Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse Of The Heart, but here at Stuck in …

  4. Hollywood lost a serious filmmaker in Jerry Lewis

    Movies

    The day the clown died, Hollywood lost a serious filmmaker in Jerry Lewis.

    Jerry Lewis in 2005. Lewis, the comedian and filmmaker who was adored by many, disdained by others, but unquestionably a defining figure of American entertainment in the 20th century, died on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91 (New York Times)
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 22

    Events

    Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market: With live music, vegetables, fruit, baked goods, herbs, teas, plants, crafts and handmade jewelry. 9 a.m., Gulfport, along Beach Boulevard, Gulfport. Free. (727) 902-2326.

    SP_347707_KEEL_NAYMARKETS_SCOTT KEELER (12/20/2011 GULFPORT) 1. Shoppers choose various produce items recently at the Gulfport Fresh Market. The market is held on Tuesday mornings.      TIMES PHOTO SCOTT KEELER