Opera Tampa converts upcoming season into Florida Opera Festival

Published Aug. 24, 2012

See an opera, have some cake!

That's just one of the enticements Opera Tampa has in store for its inaugural Florida Opera Festival, scheduled for January through March. For its 18th season, the opera will expand its range of events with open rehearsals, a holiday concert, opera-themed movies, a comic opera about TV chef Julia Child and more.

The emphasis is on accessibility, Judy Lisi says. Lisi, president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and general director of Opera Tampa, says that the presence of the opera's new artistic director, Daniel Lipton, was one reason for the changes.

"Rather than having the season from fall to spring" as in the past, she says, "we thought we'd take advantage of the high season, when there are a lot of Canadians here and a lot of Europeans, since (Lipton) has worked in those places and is well known.

"And we just wanted to stir things up. In addition to our usual big events, we wanted to add some fun events."

One fun event will be open rehearsals for the season's two major operas, A Masked Ball and La Boheme. "We tried it last year and I said, 'Why would anybody want to come to rehearsals?' " Lisi says. "But everybody loved it."

The open rehearsals are free, but require reservations. Several other events are pay-what-you-can or low cost, a strategy, Lisi says, to welcome in audiences who might be unfamiliar with opera or uncomfortable with higher ticket costs.

One tasty event will be Bon Appetit. A one-act comic opera by Lee Hoiby, it's based on an episode of Julia Child's television show in which she prepares a French chocolate cake.

The season's major concert has a television connection, too. Tenor Nathan Pacheco, formerly an apprentice in Opera Tampa's program, will join mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins. "She was a runner-up on Dancing With the Stars, but she's a glorious singer," Lisi says.

Lisi says this inaugural festival will be a learning experience. "It's like the first pancake," she says. "I'm sure we'll learn a lot."

Here are some of the events announced for Florida Opera Festival. (For complete information and tickets, go to

• Christmas With the Opera Tampa Chorus, Dec. 2 at the Straz, Dec. 3 at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

• "A Dynamic Duet: An Evening with Maestro Daniel Lipton and Dr. Ken Lydecker," Jan. 10, MFA

• Open rehearsals: A Masked Ball, Jan. 21 and 29 and Feb. 3; La Bohème, Feb. 21 and 27 and March 4; Straz

• Sunday Afternoon at the Movies, La Traviata, Jan. 27; Moonstruck, March 3, Straz

• Bon Appétit, a one-act comic opera about Julia Child, with chocolate cake afterward, Feb. 22, Straz

Colette Bancroft can be reached at or (727) 893-8435.