Our Story

Our Story

St. Pete Opera was founded in 2007 by Mark Sforzini with the financial assistance of the late Doyle McClendon.  The company began with two fully staged shows. The company formed a Board of Directors in 2008 and produced two operas, with two performances each.  

St Petersburg Opera began offering Emerging Artist apprentice programs in 2008, and its first children’s educational programming in 2009. It created a monthly series of adult education programs, Evenings with the Maestro, established with a Culture Builds Florida grant from the State of Florida in 2010. Over its first 10 years, the company grew 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 2012, the company bought and renovated a building as a headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg.  Opera Central houses offices, set and costume construction and storage space, a large performance and rehearsal hall and a small rehearsal hall which doubles as an art gallery.  It has truly become a cultural hub for the city.

The pandemic and its associated closures of performing venues created difficulties for the whole world, with its own set of challenges for the performing arts. St. Pete Opera adapted, transitioning to small outdoor popup opera performances that we called “POPera.” By giving our audiences space in outdoor environments, we were able to offer original monthly opera programs that fed the community’s hunger for live performances while maintaining safe social distancing. 

Taking advantage of local and federal grant programs gave us the financial cushion to move toward large scale productions as the pandemic eased. The opera has returned to its former level of three mainstage operas. Using the financial surplus generated during 2020 and 2021, major renovations were undertaken, replacing the roof, putting new water-resistant flooring in our rehearsal and performance hall, purchasing our own sound equipment and creating new offices. We are currently engaged in a strategic plan to continue to build on the excellence of the past, charting a course toward the future.