Mark Sforzini is taking a Shakespearean approach to the next season of St. Petersburg Opera. It will open with Gounod's opera Romeo et Juliette and wind up with Leonard Bernstein's Broadway version of Shakespeare's same romantic tragedy, West Side Story.
"I thought it would be fun to bookend our season with Shakespeare," said Sforzini, artistic and executive director of the opera company and the 2013-14 schedule.
In between, the company will do productions of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, perhaps the most widely performed American opera, and Bellini's bel canto classic Norma. All operas are staged at the Palladium Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.
Entering its eighth season, St. Petersburg Opera has pretty much exhausted the standard repertory of audience favorites such as Madama Butterfly, Carmen and La Boheme. "I'm excited to be doing some operas that are masterpieces but that are not done very often, like Norma," Sforzini said.
Also on the agenda are the return of Seasonal Sparkle, a holiday show, and Sforzini's popular "Evenings with the Maestro," talks with music presented during the season at the Music Gallery in Clearwater and other venues.
Casting is not yet announced. This month, the company is holding auditions for three days in New York and then three days in St. Petersburg. Sforzini expects to hear as many as 350 singers.
Susannah, premiered at Florida State University in 1955, will be the second Floyd opera to have recent stagings by Florida companies, following Sarasota Opera's Of Mice and Men this season. Sforzini expects the 86-year-old composer to participate in events around the production.
Last year the company purchased a building near downtown St. Petersburg that it will use for offices, costume and set shops and rehearsal space. Sforzini said the plan is to have a grand opening during National Opera Week in November, though the building's 3,700-square-foot rehearsal space should be ready to prepare for next season's opening production of the Gounod opera.
There is one more production in the current season, Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos May 31-June 2.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected].com or (727) 893-8716.