Our Mission Statement:
The mission of the St. Petersburg Opera Company is to enrich the cultural lives of the residents of and visitors to the Tampa Bay area by presenting fully staged professional opera productions of the highest quality, and to make opera accessible to present and future audiences through community outreach, educational initiatives, and collaboration with other arts organizations.
The St. Petersburg Opera Company is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation. All charitable contributions are fully deductible to the extent permissible by law.
St. Petersburg Opera was founded in 2007 by Mark Sforzini with the financial assistance of the late Doyle McClendon. The company began with a two fully staged performances of La Bohème and the Florimezzo Orchestra. From the beginning, Maestro Sforzini believed in the necessity of a vital Emerging Artist program and in community outreach and opera education. La Bohème generated enough in ticket sales to encourage Sforzini and McClendon to continue and the following season, the company produced two operas, with two performances each. The company formed a Board of Directors in 2008 which has grown to 15 members. In addition, as Mr. McClendon retired, the company established a network of loyal donors and supporters who have helped the company grow. It began an annual fundraising gala tradition in 2011.
Over its first ten years, the company has grown to produce three fully staged operas with three performances each, one Broadway or light opera show with three to six performances, and a holiday program with two performances. In addition, it produces a monthly series of adult education programs, Evenings with the Maestro, established with a Culture Builds Florida grant from the State of Florida. This series outgrew its original location and has expanded to a second full series location and a third partial series location. Children’s educational programming has not been neglected either, with efforts ranging from a children’s opera, to special performances of mainstage operas open only to students, to in-school programs. In 2015, Opera Express was created: a free, family friendly day of opera and participatory music education.
In 2012 the company acquired its own home, Opera Central, in downtown St. Petersburg. The building houses offices, set and costume construction and storage space, a large rehearsal hall and a small rehearsal hall which doubles as an art gallery. It has truly become a cultural hub for the city, with an amazing variety of activities.
The quality of the artistic experience has always been paramount in Maestro Sforzini’s vision. Over the years, the quality of the singers the company has hired has improved as attendance at our open auditions has skyrocketed. Singers from all over the world have sung for us. The orchestra has also improved, with most players drawn from the ranks of the Florida Orchestra and the Sarasota Orchestra. Theatrical aspects, from stage direction, sets, costumes, and lighting are now created by professionals in great demand in the industry.
St. Petersburg Opera has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts for the quality of its Emerging Artist program and its productions and personnel won numerous industry awards. Sforzini was recently chosen by Musical America as one of thirty international industry professionals as a “Profile in Courage”. These top industry leaders have “taken a risk, spoken out where others were silent – all to the measurable benefit of their arts organizations and the field”.
A second important aspect of Sforzini’s vision is that the company must operate in a fiscally responsible fashion. In each year of its existence, the company has had a balanced budget and has nearly finished paying for the renovation of its building, acquired in 2012.
Collaboration is an important part of our vision. We believe in working with other arts organizations to raise the cultural bar for the area. We have collaborated with theater companies such as American Stage and A Simple theatre, with local colleges and universities, and with visual artists and museums. We belong to neighborhood associations and chambers of commerce that promote improvements to the quality of life.