Published On: Tue, Dec 13th, 2022

A Florida-Inspired World Premiere, And Great Opera Arias

Sebrina María Alfonso will lead the South Florida Symphony Orchestra during performances of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, the Florida-inspired Ocklawaha, and a selection of great opera arias Photo: Steven Shires

South Florida Symphony Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary Season Continues to Shine with Shostakovich, Ocklawaha 

Fort Lauderdale, FL – South Florida Symphony Orchestra’s (SFSO) 25th anniversary season continues to shine with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, the world premiere of Ocklawaha by composer-in-residence John Gottsch, and a selection of great opera arias from Puccini, Verdi, and Lara. Led by Music Director Sebrina María Alfonso with guest soloists Catalina Cuervo, soprano and tenor Adam Diegel, the Masterworks programs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., respectively, on January 24 at New World Center in Miami Beach, on January 25 at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale, and on January 26, opening the season at Tennessee Williams Theatre at The College of the Florida Keys in Key West.

“This rich and varied program aims to take our audiences on a musical journey,” said Alfonso. “Shostakovich opposed a totalitarian regime in his time delivering a neo-classical work that was considered more of a rebuke than a celebration of ultimate strength and power. His Ninth Symphony certainly resonates with what is presently happening in Ukraine, today. And, in  Gottsch’s latest, he similarly reflects on the plight and culture of Native Americans. Finally, who can resist the sheer power of some of the world’s most beloved arias?”

Originally intended to be a grandiose piece that would glorify Stalin’s regime and Russian victory over the Nazis in 1945, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 rendered a more complex, thoughtful and sometimes carefree composition. The composer was known for his resistance to Soviet rule and his subversion tactics, often promising to compose the piece the regime wanted while giving it something else.

SFSO’s composer-in-residence John Gottsch will present the world premiere of Ocklawaha. The Ocklawaha is a river originating in the lakes of central Florida and flowing north through some of the most mysterious, wild, and breathtakingly beautiful parts of the state. As a young boy, the composer traveled the Ocklawaha with his father, learning the history of the river and surrounding lakes, that brought to life on passing shores, the escaped slaves, Seminole warriors, and a Civil War battle. The musical narrative brings to life the storied struggles of Florida’s Native American ancestors through thoughtfully arranged orchestral movements. 

John D. Gottsch was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to Florida with his family, shortly thereafter. He spent his youth in the lake country of the Sunshine State traveling extensively and observing natural habitats. These explorations of Florida gave him an enduring love for its beauty and wildlife. He has been a lifelong composer and many of his compositions reflect his deep appreciation of the outdoors. Last year, SFSO premiered the live performance of Gottsch’s original composition Princess Yurievskaya to glowing reviews, and in 2020, SFSO premiered Sunset, both of which were featured on Gottsch’s 2020 debut album released by Naxos Records, the world’s leading classical music label. SFSO also performed Gottsch’s Bagatelles for Violin & Piano as part of its Summer with the Symphony Series in June 2021. His piano suite, Homosassa, premiered in Palm Beach in 2020. His piano quintet, Maryland Hunt, premiered at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C in 2018 and has been performed in Philadelphia, Vienna, Rotterdam, and Baltimore. Gottsch splits his time between Baltimore and Key West.

In addition, the program includes a selection of great opera arias performed by Catalina Cuervo, soprano and Adam Diegel, tenor – Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro,” “Un Bel Dì, Vedremo,” and “O Soave Fanciulla,” Agustín Lara’s “Granada,” Verdi’s “La Donna è Mobile” and “Brindisi” (The Drinking Song from La Traviata). 

“We are thrilled to bring these masterful works to our audiences,” said Jacqueline Lorber, president and CEO of South Florida Symphony Orchestra. “Coming off a sold-out holiday Messiah performance at The Parker, we’re energized to perform these pieces at our new home at Miami Beach’s renowned New World Center and we look forward to opening our season at the iconic Tennessee Williams Theatre in Key West where the Symphony first formed.”

Upcoming SFSO concerts include Brahms, Sibelius, and Berlioz on February 15 and 18, an all Dvořák program on March 22, 23 and 25 and season closer Rachmaninoff and Bruckner on April 26.

Tickets for the Masterworks II program start at $15 for The Parker and $25 for New World Center and Tennessee Williams Theatre at The College of the Florida Keys. Season subscriptions are on sale, now, for performances at the Tennessee Williams Theatre, opening on January 28. Tickets may be purchased by visiting or by calling (954) 522-8445.

For additional information, visit, call (954) 522-8445 or email

About South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO)

Founded in 1997 in Key West by Music Director Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso, the now Wilton Manors-based South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) is celebrating its 25th anniversary season. SFSO is dedicated to providing enriching cultural music experiences to residents and visitors in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Guided by the belief that music is pivotal to thriving communities, SFSO brings vibrancy and engagement with the arts via innovative programming and transformative educational initiatives. A pioneer in its commitment to symphonic music for underserved communities, its Symphony in the Schools program has touched the lives of 100,000 students since its inception in 1997. SFSO was recently named the first Partner in the Arts for The Parker by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and has been recognized by the Broward County Cultural Division as a “Major Cultural Institution,” one of only a handful of organizations to be so honored. For a performance schedule and season tickets, visit, call (954) 522-8445 or email

Major support for the South Florida Symphony Orchestra is provided by PNC Private Bank, the Gerald L. Laskey Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation of Broward; the Broward County Cultural Division, the Cultural Council, and the Broward County Board of  County Commissioners. Additional sponsorship is provided, in part, by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

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