Now in its 15th season, St. Petersburg Opera Company is firmly rooted in the rich landscape of one of the most exciting, culturally-vibrant areas of Florida! Because of the talent, tenacity and artistic vision of Maestro Mark Sforzini, what modestly started out as “the little opera company that could” became, within its first season, a performing arts powerhouse, where the finest professional singers, the best musicians and the most creative craftspeople come together to make magic, every time.
“People who love St. Petersburg like the idea that a city that is having a cultural renaissance would have a professional opera company,” Maestro Sforzini once told a reporter, adding, with a mischievous grin, “and a QUALITY professional opera company!”
So he built it. And they came.
Sforzini is not merely a visionary leader who established an innovative and successful nonprofit business (although he is, and he did). He is a composer whose orchestral and chamber works have been commissioned and Performed by the Florida Orchestra, Tampa Bay Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Omaha Symphony, Eastern Music Festival, Toledo Symphony Orchestra and numerous others. He has written and produced a number of one-act opera and music programs based on operatic repertoire, and using professional singers and orchestral musicians.
Sforzini’s acclaimed Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon debuted in 2018.
The Alabama native served as principal bassoon of the Florida Orchestra from 1992 to 2007. He was artistic director of the prestigious Encore Series of chamber music at the Palladium Theater for several years, and co-founded FloriMezzo in 2003, serving as its artistic director for five years. In addition, he was Music Director of the Pinellas Youth Symphony, and a composer-mentor for Hillsborough County Schools.
His passion for opera was re-kindled in 2005, when he was invited to guest-conduct a one-time production of Madama Butterfly at the Palladium Theater.
The show sold out, and turned out to be a transformative experience for the audience, for the singers and musicians – and for Mark Sforzini.
“When I conducted that, I just felt like I was supposed to be doing opera,” he recalled. “It was just a very strong gut feeling.”
Far from resting on his considerable laurels, Sforzini continues to stretch, to test the boundaries of what an opera company can and should be. Each season brings several lavishly-staged and fully-orchestrated productions of classic operas, plus pops and cabaret shows, a children’s introduction to opera, seasonal showcases and other vastly entertaining offerings.
Recently added to the mix: Creative Collaborations, a one-of-a-kind concert event in which musicians who might not normally perform together do so, in new and sometimes unprecedented configurations. In the spring of 2019, Creative Collaborations included a bassoon quartet, a double bass and banjo duet, a piano and violin duet and a staged performance –with Maestro Sforzini conducting – of Stravinsky’s multi-disciplinary work A Soldier’s Tale, blending a small orchestra, acting, narration and dance.
In addition to his duties as St. Pete Opera’s executive and artistic director, chief visionary, arranger and conductor, Maestro Sforzini is in demand as an adjudicator, clinician and chamber music coach. Since 2012, he has been music director and conductor of the Tampa Bay Symphony, and established a Call for Scores Competition to promote 21st century works by composers around the world.
Mark Sforzini was chosen by Musical America as one of 30 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.”