USF students fill St. Petersburg stage in Tosca

The St. Petersburg Opera Company presented its first performance of the season this weekend with the century-old opera, Giacomo Puccinis Tosca at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, featuring some of USFs 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 shows cast and chorus.

The St. Petersburg Opera Company is a great company and theyre 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 wouldnt get pretty much anywhere else in the country at our age.

Tosca is Coits 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.

Its a good experience for young singers to get involved with the orchestra and be around
professional singers, he said. Its definitely something everybody should try to get involved with if youre 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. Its relaxing up to the point its
stressful, she said.

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

Its amazing to watch and be a part of. Its not a dying art and its not directed towards a certain
demographic. Its something that a lot of young people are into and should be into because its 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.