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Stage: Hot Ticket

By JOHN FLEMING

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001


A Verdi rarity

Verdi was not an instant success as an opera composer. In fact, he was already 26 when his first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, was produced at La Scala in 1839. It went on to have several other productions, but Verdi's debut opera is rarely performed today.

So, in the 100th anniversary season of Verdi's death, Oberto is a perfect choice for Sarasota Opera's exploration of operatic curiosities, an ongoing project that has unearthed such rarities as Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night and Cilea's L'Arlesiana.

Sarasota artistic director Victor DeRenzi will be in the pit for Oberto. Scenic design was done by John Farrell, who also designed the set for Sacco and Vanzetti, the Anton Coppola opera that premieres next weekend in Tampa. Roy Cornelius Smith, above left, plays Riccardo; Kevin Short, center, plays Oberto; and Rosa Baker, right, plays Leonora.

Oberto opens Saturday and has seven performances through March 31. Sarasota Opera House is at 61 N Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets: $15-$60. (941) 366-8450.

-- JOHN FLEMING, Times performing arts critic

A show for kids

In Imagine . . ., Ian Beck uses clowning and mime to depict a character -- one Madge E. Nation -- who has been sent to his room and forced to make do without TV, computer or phone.

"This show is about kids coming unplugged and using their imagination to create a world for themselves," says Ken Mitchell, artistic director of American Stage, where the solo show is part of the theater's family series.

Beck, above, a 1994 grad of Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, attended the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. His show includes improvisation and interaction with the audience.

Imagine . . . opens Friday and runs through March 25, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets: $7 for children 12 and under, $15 for adults. (727) 823-7529.

-- JOHN FLEMING, Times performing arts critic

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