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USF students fill St. Petersburg stage in ‘Tosca’

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 00:02

The St. Petersburg Opera Company presented its first performance of the season this  weekend with the century-old opera, Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, featuring some of USF’s talented music and theater students.

The green room, which served as a prepping area for the cast, had red walls covered in colorful
posters of past events at the theater and was full of makeup mirrors, racks of elaborate costumes and makeshift dressing rooms. The cast and crew bustled around readying themselves for opening night with vocal warm-ups and last minute preparations.

In the back of the room past the grand piano, some performers gathered around tables to relax and prepare before the show. Among them were USF students, part of the show’s cast and chorus.

“The St. Petersburg Opera Company is a great company and they’re very unique in the fact that they hire students,” Sarah Coit, a senior majoring in music studies and minoring in theatre performance with the part of the shepherd boy in the show, said. “You get great
opportunities that you wouldn’t get pretty much anywhere else in the country at our age.”

“Tosca” is Coit’s tenth show with the St. Petersburg Opera Company. She was a freshman when one of her professors told her to audition with the company.

For many of the participating students, “Tosca” is not their first opera.

John Short, a senior majoring in music studies, is participating in his eighth production as an understudy for the role of Angelotti.

“I just really started enjoying it and started to realize that I could be a singer,” Short said about his first performances with the company. He has rehearsals from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and said the long hours are worth the pay off for such an extraordinary show.

He said along with focusing on the minute details of the show, the St. Petersburg Opera Company also prepares its understudies more thoroughly than other companies. They get time  onstage with the orchestra and work one-on-one with the director so they are ready to perform if need be.

For Jonathan Willis, a graduate student majoring in vocal performance, “Tosca” is his second show.

“It’s a good experience for young singers to get involved with the orchestra and be around
professional singers,” he said. “It’s definitely something everybody should try to get involved with if you’re singing music of any kind.”

Courtney Elvira, a mezzo-soprano majoring in vocal performance, has performed with the company for two years.

“You go out there and get to be somebody else for two minutes. It’s relaxing up to the point it’s
stressful,” she said.

But Elvira said she has been able to manage the stress — maintaining a 3.9 GPA and working with the opera.

“It’s amazing to watch and be a part of. It’s not a dying art and it’s not directed towards a certain
demographic. It’s something that a lot of young people are into and should be into because it’s a
beautiful art form,” Elvira said.

The St. Petersburg Opera Company puts on several productions during the year, students can purchase student rush tickets for the shows for $10 at the door on Fridays and Tuesdays.

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