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PUCCINI HAS NOTHING ON LOCAL EVENTS

More than 170 top voice students from around the world are in Hernando County for the Intermezzo Opera Festival. They've performed Falstaff, The Magic Flute and Sister Angelica at Nature Coast Technical High School.

Attendance hasn't been great. Perhaps folks just aren't into opera. Mostly they're in Italian. You know how we feel about foreign languages. But then again, maybe it's because we prefer our own homemade operas.

Opera, for the uninitiated, is an art form in which singers convey drama, comedy or farce. It deals with love, redemption, greed, power, humor and ambition. Stuff you see in the daily newspaper. So in honor of the festival, I'd like to suggest some operas based on local events.

- The fiasco at the Brooksville Housing Authority, where the executive director and program manager were convicted of stealing federal money, makes for a tragic opera of greed and ineptness. Title this one Stolen Dreams.

In the real world, the executive director and program manager are headed for federal prison. Members of the board of directors who steadfastly defended the two disgraced employees soon will be sacked by the Brooksville City Council.

Here's why we like opera: On stage, the two convicted employees would be placed in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruits and vegetables.

- For endless operatic drama and comedy, there has been no better stage than Port Richey, where residents periodically gather their forces to dissolve the city. It never works. But last week's comedy of errors was typical as the City Council got the numbers wrong when they tried to cut the property tax rate - without consulting their chief administrator, Jerry Calhoun, who was out sick.

This opera, Miscalculation, would open with that rich baritone Mark Hashim singing, "We know best, trust us,'' and conclude with Calhoun still raspy and dumbfounded, standing on a darkened stage. "What were you thinking?'' he'd warble, heading for the exit, like so many managers before.

- In Dade City, Commissioner Camille Hernandez livened up the dull, hot summer with a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist accusing Mayor Hutch Brock and former City Manager Harold Sample of shady behavior. She misspelled the governor's last name and was short on specifics (and proof). And so is born our final installment: Camille of Dade.

Filled with moral certitude and conceit, Hernandez is more prima donna than diva. Even before she took office she was feuding with city employees. She'll share the stage with her husband, the landlord who's trying to evict a popular downtown restaurant. Every good opera needs conflict, and this one will be sung over at the courthouse.

The orchestra will swell, the cymbals clash as the shrill soprano stakes her claim - just before the curtain falls on her head.

Now that's opera.

Andrew Skerritt can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is askerritt@sptimes.com.

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