Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Sarasota Youth Opera Camp

The 2016 Sarasota Youth Opera Camp is in full swing with more than 70 campers between the ages of 8 - 18 learning the ins and outs of the art form of Opera. Participants experience the magic on stage and behind-the-scenes as they study many facets of opera - from music and acting to opera appreciation and technical production - under the direction of Sarasota Opera's professional staff. Here is a sneak peek into what our campers are up to.

Maestro Jesse Martins leads campers in chorus rehearsal

Sarasota Opera Orchestra members Gil Katz (bass) and Nadine Trudel (cello) lead an instrumental workshop playing specially arranged excerpts from well-known operas in the Opera House Grand Atrium.

Campers learned all about making prosthetic noses from wigs and makeup instructor Kim Calhoon.

Campers explore another side of opera by trying on costumes from previous Sarasota Opera productions

Baritone Joseph Ryan leads "Opera 101" where campers learn the stories and history behind specific operas.  

Daniel Rodriguez of the Sarasota Ballet leads a class in movement teaching campers the principles behind ballet. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Guinness World Records Day

Sunday, November 15th, is the Annual Guinness World Records Day, so we thought that it would be fun to go share some Guinness World Records from the Opera world:

Oldest Opera Singer (Guinness World Record)
Luo Pinchao receiving his Guiness World Record

Luo Pinchao (b. China, 19 June 1912) began his singing career in 1930 and continued to regularly perform Cantonese opera and celebrated his 93rd birthday and record-breaking career with a performance at the Guandong Cantonese Opera Grand Artistic Theatre, Guangzhou, China on 20 June 2004.

Luo Pinchao passed away on 15 July 2010, at the age of 98.

Longest Opera (Guinness World Record)
Richard Wagner

The longest regularly performed opera is Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by German composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883). A normal uncut version can entail 5 hours and 15 minutes of music.

The opera The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin by Robert Wilson (b: October 4, 1941) was performed in 7 acts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 14 and 15 in 1973 and required 13 hours 25 minutes. Act 7 was deemed by some to be the best.

The Heretics by Gabriel von Wayditch (1888–1969) has a piano-vocal score that numbers 2,850 pages of music and lasts 8½ hours.

Most Curtain Calls (Guinness World Record)
Luciano Pavarotti

Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti holds the record with 165 curtain calls after a performance of Donizetti's The Daugher of the Regiment at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He was applauded for 1 hour and 7 minuets.

He also holds the record for longest applause ever at 1 hour and 30 minutes, most roles performed, most recordings made, most famous living operatic tenor at his 70th birthday in 2005, most money raised by an individual for charities, and another for the best-selling classical album (In Concert by the Three Tenors; the latter record is thus shared by fellow tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras).

Most Performed Opera (Guinness World Record)
The 2009 production of Verdi's La traviata at Sarasota Opera
According to Opera Database, Giuseppe Verdi is the most performed composer with 3009 operas programmed, and his opera La Traviata is the most performed opera with at 659 performances over the last five seasons from 2009-10 through 2013-14.

Composer and opera tables are based on counts of performance runs (how many times a work was programmed, not the number of performances) over five seasons from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sarasota Opera Visits Verdi - Last Leg

The final leg of Sarasota Opera’s Verdi Pilgrimage, took the group to the beautiful city of Venice.

Teatro La Fenice
Venice figured large in Verdi’s career. Several of his greatest operas were premiered in the city including Ernani, Attila, Rigoletto, La traviata,  and Simon Boccanegra. It was in the city he also met one of his closest collaborators and friends, librettist Francesco Maria Piave. In another act of the composer’s charity, Verdi supported Piave and his family after the poet was struck down by a stroke and left paralyzed in 1867, until his death in 1876.

The Sarasota group traveled from Parma to Venice by bus and then transferred by water taxi to the Bauer’s Hotel, near the Piazza San Marco. The afternoon was taken up with touring the Ca’ Rezzonico, a palazzo which once included Robert Browning and Cole Porter as its tenants and is now one of the finest museums of art in Venice.
Members of the group at dinner at Cipriani overlooking St. Mark's Basilica
Following the tour we adjourned to the island of Giudecca and the famous Cipriani Hotel where we had a private dinner overlooking the Grand Canal.

Despite the rain, the following morning a few hardy souls toured the Basilica of St. Marks, the Rialto Market, and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a building for which Tintoretto provided all of the artwork, including some of his greatest masterpieces.

The group in front of the Teatro La Fenice
A performance at the Teatro La Fenice was on tap for the evening. The famous theater, site of the Verdi premieres (including the opening night fiasco of La traviata) in Venice, is named after the “Phoenix.” The beautiful, but ill-starred venue has had to repeatedly “rise from the ashes” as fires have destroyed the theater three times, in 1792, 1836, and most recently in 1996. It is one of the most historically important theaters in the country and one of the most ornate.

The artistic director of the Teatro La Fenice, Fortunato Ortombina, gave some insight into the theater and the production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly that we were about to see. Coincidentally, Mo. DeRenzi recognized Mr. Ortombina from his earlier work with the Institute of Verdi Studies in Parma.
Maestro DeRenzi, Teatro La Fenice Artistic Director Fortunato Ortombina, and Executive Director Richard Russell
inside Teatro La Fenice
The performance of Puccini’s masterwork provoked much conversation among the group over dinner at the Taverna La Fenice, after the opera. Through a partnership with the Art Biennale, the set design was by visual artist Mariko Mori, whose futuristic aesthetic is reflected in the giant Möbius that dominates the spare stage and which inspired a modernistic interpretation of the opera. Notwithstanding the varying opinions of the production, everyone was glad to have experienced opera in this historic theater.
The interior of Venice's Teatro La Fenice with Mariko Mori's set for Act I of Madama Butterfly on stage
The following day, the last of the trip, took the group to Lake Orta and the beautiful Villa Crespi. Everyone assembled in the 2-Michelin starred restaurant for a delectable dinner and a chance to reminisce about the exceptional experiences of the past 9 days. Even Mo. DeRenzi, who had been to many of places we visited before, had never been to parts of the Casa Verdi in Milan and Villa Verdi at Santa’Agata that are not usually open to the public, as well as the opportunity to meet one of the composer’s descendants. Everyone was sorry to see the trip end and spirits were hardly dampened when the maître’d of the restaurant felt the need to cut off our attempt to pay homage to Verdi by singing “Va pensiero sull’ali dorate” from Nabucco one last time.

It was an experience that no one will soon forget and a fitting start to the season that will bring the Grand Finale to Sarasota Opera’s 28-season long “Verdi Cycle.”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sarasota Opera Visits Verdi - Busseto and Piacenza

After our special night with the “Club of the 27” everyone was tired but in a very Verdi mood. So it was exciting that the next day would take the group to the land where the composer was born and lived all of his life.

The morning bus ride passed through the small town of Le Roncole (now called Le Roncole Verdi), where Giuseppe Verdi was born and spent his first years. Following this we made our way to the town of Busseto.

When the composer was 11, he moved to Busseto to attend school. There he became close to the family of Giovanni Barezzi, whose daughter would become his first wife. He later received financial support from the town (and especially from Barezzi) for his musical studies in Milan. However, his relationship with the community soured when following his first wife’s death, he returned to Busseto and lived openly with the singer Giuseppina Strepponi, who would later become his wife. The populace shunned Strepponi and felt  that Verdi was ungrateful for their earlier support. When he heard him claim that they “made” him, he declared that they should then “make another one.”
Inside the Teatro Verdi
Welcoming the group to Busseto were four members of the Club of the 27, who accompanied us on our day’s excursions. First stop on the day’s itinerary was the Teatro Verdi. The small (300 seat), beautiful, theater was named in the composer’s honor, despite his opposition to its construction. He felt the town was too small to support the venue, and made sure he was out of town on the day it was inaugurated. Nevertheless, it is elegantly decorated, with a box that was initially reserved for Verdi (but was never used by him.)

Crossing the square past a large statue of the composer, the next stop was the Casa Barezzi, home of the composer’s patron Giovanni Barezzi. It was as a lodger in this house, that the composer met his first wife Margherita, who, along with their two young children, died tragically only a few years after their marriage. The house was a center of musical life in the village and is now restored to display artifacts about the composer and his relationship to the Barezzi family.

After a quick stop for coffee at the Café Centrale and time to pose for a picture in front of the statue of Verdi, next on the itinerary was the Antica Corte Pallavicina, where “Culatello di Zibello” is made. This is a delicious type of Parma ham made from the butt of the pig. Verdi was one of  the past patrons of this delicacy. Among the current clients of the Antica Corte Pallavicina are Prince Charles and Prince Albert of Monaco (whose allocation could be found among the hanging meat).
Prince Charles stash of culatello
The Sarasotans were treated to a testing of cullatello, along with other types of prosciutto and salame, washed down with some local wine. This was the appetizer for a wonderful lunch next door at “Il Cavallino Bianco (The White Pony)” a Michelin-starred restaurant on the property.

Although after lunch everyone could have used a nice nap, the travelers moved on to one of the most honored places by Verdi lovers, the Villa Verdi at Sant’Agata. Following his unpleasant experience living in Busseto and being a farmer at heart, the composer purchased a farm in 1848 and immediately began extensive alterations and additions. He expanded the house and the grounds so that within in few years it was the biggest employer in the area encompassing many acres. The composer and his wife lived there from 1851 through their deaths.
Outside the Casa Verdi in Sant'Agata
Several of the 100 rooms of the house are now maintained as a museum but the rest is still used as a home by Verdi’s descendants. The rooms of the museum are maintained as they were in Verdi’s time. However, the Sarasota visitors got a special treat, when the guide took them to rooms not generally open to the public including the salon, foyer, dining room,  and billiard room, where they were  joined by Angiolo Carrara-Verdi, the great-great-great grandson of Verdi’s heir Filomena Maria Carrara-Verdi and his wife.

After a quick stop at the Church in Le Roncole, where Verdi first played the organ, the group headed back to the hotel after a tiring, but enlightening day.

The following day included a short tour of conductor Arturo Toscanini’s birthplace and the beautiful Teatro Farnese. The travelers then had some time to wander the streets of Parma on their own before meeting for a trip to Piacenza for a concert performance of Verdi’s I due Foscari at the Teatro Municipale.
Teatro Municipale before the performance of Verdi's I due Foscari
The audiences in region of Parma are known as some of the most discerning and judgmental in the world. Singers who don’t make the grade have been literally run out of town. But when they are enthusiastic, they are indescribably appreciative and demonstrative. That was certainly the case this evening.

I due Foscari was performed without sets or costumes, but was sung complete with orchestra and chorus. The cast included world renowned baritone Leo Nucci, tenor Fabio Sartori, and soprano Kristin Lewis, who was known by the the Sarasota audience from her performance of Musetta in La bohème there in 2006.  Since then she has made a successful career in Europe and is now based in Vienna. The conductor was Donato Renzetti.

The theater was pulsing with excitement for the performance. All the principals were exciting and easily thrilled the audience. But the palm for this performance had to go to veteran baritone Nucci, who at the age of 73 still has the goods to deliver. After his final aria the audience could not contain themselves and lept to their feet in appreciation.
Baritone Leo Nucci takes a bow alongside conductor Donato Renzetti. Photo courtesy of
Adjourning around the corner to the  Antica Osteria del Teatro for cocktails and another sumptuous dinner, the group was joined by the stars of the performance, Leo Nucci and Kristin Lewis. One of the group Terry Osborne, received an extra special thrill as the singers serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.”
Renowned baritone Leo Nucci (left) with Terry and Valerie Osborne
Few will forget this exciting day and a performance that was a special highlight of the trip.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sarasota Opera Visits Verdi (Day 3 and 4)

The Duomo in Milan

Despite rain, the Sarasota Verdi lovers spent the morning touring two of the major sites of Milan, the Duomo and Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. The painting, housed in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, is one of the glories of western art despite its severely deteriorated condition. The Sarasotans were struck by its beauty in, what was for some, a very moving visit.

The following day, the group decamped from Milan to the city of Parma, the area that was the birthplace and home of composer Giuseppe Verdi. First order of business was a tour of the Teatro Regio, a beautiful theater, similar in size to the Sarasota Opera House, where a Verdi Festival is held each October.
Sarasotans enjoying a tour of the Teatro Regio di Parma
This was followed by a visit to the Corale Verdi, home of the Verdi Choral Society (begun in 1905) and also a wonderful restaurant. The promised light lunch, was instead a simple, but sumptuous meal of Parmesan delicacies including tortelloni, stuffed veal, and roast Prosciutto (Parma Ham). The meal was accompanied by a sparkling white wine and Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine that is a speciality of the region.

Sarasotans enjoying lunch at the Corale Verdi
The evening that followed will no doubt for many, be the highlight of the tour. In March 2013, Sarasota Opera had a visit from four members of the “Club of the 27”.  Each of these devoted enthusiasts of the music of Giuseppe Verdi are named after one of the composer’s operas. They meet once a week to discuss music and have developed ongoing education programs in the schools about music and Verdi.

This year, the Sarasota Opera group visited “the 27” in their clubhouse, a small cove underneath Parma’s musical school “Casa della Musica.” The visitors entered a dark room the only illumination highlighting a bust of Verdi.
The Sarasotans in front of a statue of Verdi in his hometown of Busseto
The members of the 27 were lined up against the wall and began singing “Va, pensiero,” the chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Verdi’s opera Nabucco, which is a second national anthem for Italians. Following this ritual, the president Enzo Petrolini (Un giorno di regno) presented the Sarasotans with gifts and medals in the image of Verdi. There was then some social time with the two groups over prosecco and local Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Next was a concert in honor of the Sarasota guests, in the Casa della Musica. Five accomplished young Italian singers, soprano Renata Campanella, soprano Scilla Cristiano, mezzo-soprano Leonora Sofia, tenor Antonio Corianò, and bass Davide Ruberti, were accompanied by Simone Savina, in arias from operas by Verdi and others. All of these singers are working in Italy and at the beginning of promising careers.

Everyone (including the artists) then moved to a restaurant just outside of Parma, Il granaio. The Sarasota travelers were the guests of the Club of the 27 for another typical and generous Parmesan meal: Tortelloni in brodo, ravioli alla erba, and a selection of delicious Parmesan meats including coppa, salami, and of course Prosciutto di Parma. Despite the pleas of the guests that they were stuffed, their hosts continued to bring out more food including wonderful desserts of fruit, various tortes, a delicious treat of apples baked in wine and gelato.

One more presentation ended the evening: a plaque that commemorates the friendship between the Club of the 27 and Sarasota Opera.  Members of the club promised that many of them would join their new friends in Sarasota for the Grand Finale of the Verdi Cycle in March 2016.