A well-off businessman and a prostitute share a brief romance before complications ensue. Opera fans have likely seen Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata, one of the all time greats. Millions more have seen the movie Pretty Woman without realizing that it is based on the Verdi classic.
The adaptation is admittedly a loose one, and Pretty Woman might have been more interesting if Julia Roberts had died of tuberculosis instead of being whisked away by Richard Gere. You can see the real story, plus unreal vocals, at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts this weekend.
The story tracks Violetta (played by Cecilia Violetta Lopez), the courtesan, and Alfredo (Cody Austin), who despises what she does for a living yet has fallen in love. Austin said he likes Verdi's choices of opera themes because of their broad appeal and the way the music sets up the singing.
"When I sing Verdi, it really brings out my core sound a lot more," he said. "There is some really passionate music there that really lets you go full throttle."
Opera Tampa presents La Traviata at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $49.50-$125. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.
SIDE BY SIDE: SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM
Start with the single most important Broadway composer of the 20th century. Add video footage in which Stephen Sondheim discusses his life and artistic process.
Wrap it up with new arrangements of more than two dozen Sondheim favorites, sung by a talented cast including Ann Morrison, an original cast member of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along; Kissy Simmons of Broadway's The Lion King; and Larry Alexander of Broadway's Les Miserables. That's a recipe Freefall Theatre Company hopes audiences will enjoy with Sondheim on Sondheim, a three-dimensional portrait of the composer. The cast also includes Nick Fitzer, Amy Marie Stewart, Kelly Pekar, Nick Lerew and Freefall's artistic director Eric Davis. Michael Raabe is handling the music direction for the show, which will pack the largest band so far this year. The show premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday and runs through April 10, with previews 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, at Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $20-$43. (727) 498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.
EVOLUTION ON TRIAL: INHERIT THE WIND
It was a much different trial of the century, one with deeper ramifications than whether O.J. killed Nicole and Ron. The State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes (1925) put a substitute science teacher on trial for violating a state law forbidding that evolution be taught in public schools. The case was later immortalized in a 1955 play, Inherit the Wind, and a 1960 movie of the same name.
In a partnership with Tampa Repertory Theatre, Stageworks Theatre is producing the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. Directed by Tampa Repertory artistic director C. David Frankel, the cast of nearly 20 features Jim Wicker and Richard Coppinger as nationally known lawyers Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond. The show opens at 8 p.m. Friday (preview 8 p.m. Thursday) and runs through March 27 at Stageworks Theatre, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. $30-$40. (813) 374-2416. stageworkstheatre.org.
ET LUX PERPETUA: BRAHMS' REQUIEM
The Florida Orchestra presents an unusual format this weekend with three Masterworks concerts at two churches and Ruth Eckerd Hall. Michael Francis will conduct the orchestra and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay in the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms. The first concert, "Inside Brahms' German Requiem," is special in that the first half is an interactive talk with Francis, along with musical demonstrations by the orchestra and chorale. A full performance follows. That concert starts at 8 p.m. Friday at Idlewild Baptist Church, 18333 Exciting Idlewild Blvd., Lutz. $15.
The Saturday and Sunday concert format includes the Requiem, plus The World's Ransoming by contemporary composer James MacMillan. Saturday's event is at 8 p.m. at Pasadena Community Church, 227 70th St. S, St. Petersburg, featuring the Master Chorale and an English horn solo by Jeffrey Stephenson. The concert Sunday is the same program at 7:30 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $15-45, (727) 892-3331. floridaorchestra.org.