Opera is dramatic. Opera is tragic and funny, full of betrayal and steamy passion. Opera is big and bold, dripping with emotions sung to the last row of the theater.
But is opera outdated? Is opera difficult to understand? We think it's easy if you try.
To mark the opening of new seasons this month from St. Petersburg to Tampa to Sarasota, we journeyed to local hot spots to re-create scenes from the classic stories coming to a stage near you. We dressed our models in a mix of cutting-edge and vintage fashions that still ring true to the heart of the performances, proving the glamor and aesthetic of classical opera holds up today.
And let's be honest - mankind has appreciated a little nefarious backstabbing in our entertainment from the dawn of time. That certainly hasn't changed.
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The sorrow of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, coming to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa March 13-15, sets with the sun at the Thunderbird Beach Resort on Treasure Island. A U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton has married Japanese teenager Cio-Cio San, or Butterfly. He really isn't into her, merely using her as a place-holder until he can find an American wife. Butterfly is all in, though. She converts to Christianity and waits for years while he goes off to sea. Pinkerton does find that American wife, but not without serious consequences. Big mistake, Pinkerton. Big mistake.
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The Barber of Seville
Not all opera is dark and twisted. Rossini's The Barber of Seville, which St. Petersburg Opera will present Jan. 30, Feb. 1 and 3 at the Palladium Theater, is an opera buffa, or comic opera. It stars the famous barber, Figaro, also the town fixer. See, lovely Rosina is resigned to marrying her old guardian until she meets the irresistible Count Almaviva. He wants her to love him and not his money, so he pretends to be a poor student. Figaro is his wingman along the way. Rob Aguinaga, owner and barber of WestSide Barbershop in Tampa and official clipper for several Tampa Bay Buccaneers, welcomed the operatic sojourn at his shop. WestSide keeps it light, too, by giving back to the community with free back-to-school haircuts. (westsidebarbershop.com)
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Talk about a rejection. In Puccini's Turandot, June 5, 7 and 9 from St. Petersburg Opera at the Palladium, the princess beheads any man who can't answer her riddles. When one comes along and nails all the questions to win her hand in marriage, Turandot finds herself in a pickle. If she can figure out her suitor's identity, then she can get out of the arrangement. Things didn't get quite so violent in our steamy outdoor shoot at St. Petersburg's Sunken Gardens. (stpete.org/sunken)
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Verdi's tragic Rigoletto, coming to the Straz Center Feb. 13-15, is basically every woman's nightmare. It opens on a seedy, libidinous duke trying to pick up all the ladies he can possibly handle at a palace ball - or, in our reimagined scene, the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn and Venue. When court jester Rigoletto tries to help the duke get some girlfriends, he and his beautiful daughter, Gilda, unwittingly get ensnared in the duke's dark pursuits. Cue the curses and assassins. (donvincenteinn.com)
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You know the expression "tears of a clown?" That could very well be about Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, kicking off St. Petersburg Opera's season Oct. 17, 19 and 21 at the Palladium, as well as Sarasota Opera's season Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, 5, 11, 13 and 15 at the Sarasota Opera House. The show follows a group of clowns whose stage performance overlaps murderously with real life. What better place to enact such a scene than outside Mazzaro's Italian Market in St. Petersburg? (mazzarosmarket.com)
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Cio-Cio San wears a vintage kimono ($1,198) with Agate peach earrings ($88) and Jan Michaels blue stone ring ($58), from La France boutique, Ybor City. The Theory Ultra Marine Jumper ($345) is from Neiman Marcus at International Plaza in Tampa.
The Barber of Seville
Count Almaviva wears an Ike Behar pecan dress shirt ($225) and a silk pocket square ($65) from Neiman Marcus. His Vista knob cane ($64); vintage plaid jacket ($88); vintage black wool vest ($88); steampunk corduroy pants ($118); and Stacy Adams Madison shoe boot ($136) are from La France.
Rosina is attired in a Versace Collection black button-down top ($675) from Neiman Marcus and a Burleska vintage corset ($128); vintage bronze skirt ($33); Pandora black and gold pumps ($188); and Extasia earrings ($88) from La France.
Princess Turandot wears an Alaia Paris shirt ($1,425) and Etro jacquard cropped pants ($475) from Neiman Marcus. Her Peony 1940s vintage dressing gown ($128); coil-collar brass necklace ($288); small feather fascinator ($36); Chelsea Crew red pumps ($78); and feather fan ($58) are from La France.
Her suitor wears a Burberry Brit T-shirt ($158) and Ike Behar silk pocket square ($65) from Neiman Marcus. Scandia Woods red corduroy vintage jacket ($68); Stacy Adams shoe ($136) and Enzo blue velour pants ($74), La France.
Gilda wears an orange Pamella Roland gown ($1,060) from Neiman Marcus. The duke is in Da Vinci checkered pants ($54); dress shirt ($138); Brocade vest ($118); Brocade Victorian tails topper ($368); and Stacy Adams leather shoe boot ($136) all from La France.
Nedda wears a Diane von Furstenberg black, white and pearl top ($345) and Versace skinny pant ($595), both from Neiman Marcus. Her Ann Taylor ankle-strap leather pumps ($27) are from Blissfully Yours Boutique, 15203 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. The Orthoceras giant bib necklace ($1,998) is from La France.
Canio, the clown and Nedda's husband, wears Lip Service shirt with ruffles ($118); a Leonardi suit jacket ($150); black wool suit pants ($188); Stacy Adams snakeskin shoe ($128); Steampunk Hatter top hat ($328) from La France. The Edward Armah pocket square ($75) is from Neiman Marcus.
Models: Ivan Gabriel and Anisbel Lopez from Alexa Model and Talent Management, Tampa
Hair and makeup stylist: Stephanie Gimson
Styling: Valerie Romas, one2styleu.com
Photo assistant: Jessica Joy Miller