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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
ST. PETERSBURG - There are no half measures with audiences for Die Fledermaus. Either they think that Johann Strauss II's jolly operetta is the greatest thing since champagne. Or they grow weary of its convoluted plot and labored Viennese charm.
The audience for Friday's performance by Palladium Opera fell firmly into the first camp - literally so, since they were included in the party with flutes of champagne. And for those less enamored of the frothy period piece, well, a toe-tapping tune was never far away.
For its third opera production, the Palladium assembled a solid cast for Fledermaus, with the principals well supported by the chorus in the glorious big numbers. The Florimezzo Orchestra, conducted by Mark Sforzini, was a strength right from the delicious overture.
Jon Truitt does double duty in both directing and playing Eisenstein, the philandering buffoon, with hearty cheer. His wife, Elizabeth Truitt, is Eisenstein's cagey wife, Rosalinda, who takes on the disguise of a Hungarian countess. She had all the notes in the intricate aria to her supposed homeland, but it didn't quite take off.
Perri Montane's mad Prince Orlofsky was a perfectly droll party host. Elizabeth Claxton, as the chambermaid Sophie, was a smash in her laughing aria. Todd Donovan brought elegant style to Dr. Falke. Kevin Courtemanche was the preening tenor Alfredo.
Some extracurricular high points came during the diversions at Orlofsky's party. Puppeteer and set designer Dan Butterworth put one of his stringed charges through its paces to the gypsy fiddle of Sarah Shellman. Truitt sang "Largo al factotum" from The Barber of Seville.
And then what brought down the house was Sforzini, composer, bassoonist and conductor, returning to his former glory as onetime World Hula Hoop champion in a tour de force of inspired silliness. Leonard Bernstein had nothing on him.
Die Fledermaus has one more performance, at 7:30 tonight at the Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $10-$50. (727) 822-3590; www.mypalladium.org.
MORE OPERA: Today the Metropolitan Opera presents the first of six high-definition, surround-sound live simulcasts of Saturday matinee performances to movie theaters around the country with The Magic Flute. It's the debut of a family-friendly version of Mozart's Masonic fantasy, staged by Julie Taymor (of The Lion King fame), sung in English and conducted by Met music director James Levine. The Tampa Bay area venue is the Westfield Citrus Park Mall 20, and it is sold out.