Monday, December 12, 2011

Sarasota Youth Opera Packs the House at Annual Holiday Concert!

On Sunday, December 11, 2011, the Sarasota Youth Opera Preparatory Chorus and Full Chorus packed the house for their annual Holiday Concert at the Whitfield Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, Florida.

Dave Braun, Music Director of Whitfield Presbyterian Church, welcomed the audience made up of Sarasota Youth Opera Supporters, family, friends and fans. Under the direction of Maestro Jesse Martins, Youth Opera Music Director, Ben Plocher, Youth Opera and Outreach Coordinator, the Full Chorus and Preparatory Chorus presented an hour long program of opera choruses, folk songs and holiday favorites. As a special treat, Youth Opera parents were invited to join the choruses for a singing of Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" as well as the Christmas classic "Why can't we have Christmas the whole year around?". Maestro Kristen Kemp expertly accompanied both groups on the piano.

Dave Braun, Music Director of Whitfield Presbyterian Church, welcomed the audience as well as offered a special thanks to Executive Director, Susan Danis.

The Full Chorus opened the concert with choruses from Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci and Weber's opera Oberon.

The Preparatory Chorus followed with charming folk songs performed from memory

Sarasota Opera Individual Giving Officer, Andrea Gartner, joined the Preparatory Chorus on the oboe

Here are a few more pictures from yesterday's wonderful concert:

The applause was abundant for these young performers and the audience left with smiles on their faces and a holiday song in their heart. Bravi to Maestro Martins, Ben Plocher, Maestro Kemp and especially to each and every member of the Sarasota Youth Opera for all of their hard work!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Below is an article from the Chicago Tribune regarding the significant drop in theater subscriptions across the country!

Big national drop in theater subscriptions
November 28, 2011|Chris Jones|Chicago Tribune

Theater criticFor those in the theater industry who long have followed the late Danny Newman's "Subscribe Now!" mantra to build loyal subscribers rather than fickle single ticket buyers, the latest research from the Theatre Communications Group should make sobering reading.

At least where non-profit American theaters are concerned, it is not working so well anymore.

According to Theatre Facts 2010, the annual research snapshot released by the TCG lobbying and support organization, subscription income is dropping at American theaters at an alarming rate.

Between 2006 and 2010, the report (released Monday) says, national subscription income dropped by an eye-catching 15.1%. Some 14% fewer subscripion tickets were sold and the closely watched subscriber base dropped by 15%.

Overall attendance also fell, slightly. The decline was 3.6%, although the study notes that attendance went up for workshops, skeletal productions and the like. Theaters, the study notes, have cut costs by an average of 2.6%, no doubt in response to these numbers and also to the decline in philanthropic giving (contributed income fell during the period of the study by 5.2 percent).

Interestingly, single-ticket income rose modestly during each of the years in the study. And between 2006 and 2010, the number of single-ticket buyers rose by 3%. Most theaters report a positive change in unrestricted net assets, growth that the study attributes to the rising price of a single ticket.

Sarasota Opera Hosts Friend-Raising Event in Pinellas County

Sarasota Opera hosted two friend-raising events for the Florida Suncoast Opera League, the Pinellas Opera League and patrons of Sarasota Opera on Saturday, November 19th in St. Petersburg, FL and Sunday, November 20th in Dunedin, FL. Tampa Bay Magazine publisher Aaron Fodiman, and his wife Margaret Wood Burnside, generously donated their homes for the events. The events were chaired by Sarasota Opera Trustee Don Worthington and his wife Rachael Worthington, and were generously underwritten by PNC Bank.

Executive Director Susan Danis, Aaron Fodiman and his wife, Margaret Wood Burnside at Ovation.

Sarasota Opera Trustee member Don Worthington welcomes the guests at Ovation.

The events were two hours each and attendees enjoyed cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres and a 30 minute concert presented by Sarasota Opera Artists Youna Jang, soprano and tenor Heath Huberg. “The purpose of these two events was to bring Sarasota Opera to our friends and supporters in Pinellas County”, says Greg Parry, Director of Marketing at Sarasota Opera. “This was a wonderful opportunity to say hello to new and existing patrons, let them know what we have coming up for our 2012 Winter Festival Season and, most importantly, enjoy some wonderful singing by our artists. We are grateful to Mr. Fodiman and Ms. Burnside for opening their homes, Don and Rachael Worthington for chairing the events and PNC Bank for their generous underwriting.”

Guests included Sarasota Opera Executive Director Susan T. Danis, Dr. Zena Lansky and Warren Rodgers, Aaron Fodiman and his wife Margaret Wood Burnside, Ambassador Mel Sembler and his wife Betty Sembler, the Honorable Pamela Campbell and her husband George Campbell, Sarasota Opera Board Chairman Joe Stephan and his wife Nora Stephan, and Kathleen Monahan, Director of Cultural & Civic Services for the City of Tarpon Springs.

Below are some photos from the event at Ovation:

Tenor Heath Huberg sings for the crowd

Soprano Youna Jang entertains the crowd with a selection of arias

Richard and Marita Rotella (left) and Lilo and Jeffrey Barnes (right)

Jay Kaminsky and Aaron Fodiman at Ovation

George Campbell, Sarasota Opera Board Chairman Joe Stephan, Nora Stephan and Ambassador Mel Sembler

The Honorable Pamela Campbell, Rachael Worthington, and George Campbell

And here are some photos from the next day's event at the home of Aaron Fodiman and Margaret Wood Burnside in Dunedin, FL:

Fazal Fazlin and Fay Lazaris

The Honorable and Mrs. William Castagna, John Prevas, Mavis Gibson, and Margaret Carrington

Pat Benjamin, Elena Cifuentes, Patti Italiano, Judy Dato

Joe and Michelle Menasce, Bonny Heet, Martin Martel, and John Rinde

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sarasota Opera Announces Latest Youth Opera Commission and Co-Production

Sarasota Opera proudly announced at a press conference on Tuesday, November 15th, its latest commission for the Sarasota Youth Opera program, Little Nemo in Slumberland, which will have its world premiere in November 2012 as part of Sarasota Opera’s fall season. The new opera draws source material from serial art pioneer Winsor McCay’s comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. The strip is set in the dreams of its title character and features fantasy art that attempts to capture the look and feel of a creative unconscious.

Little Nemo in Slumberland will be a Co-Production with the University of Kentucky Opera Theater and will utilize a new leading edge, innovative theater technology, SCRIBE (Self-Contained Rapidly Integratable Background Environment) that was piloted at the University of Kentucky. This technology, which has been successfully used in productions at the University of Kentucky Opera Theater and Atlanta Opera, will help meet the creative challenge presented by bringing such a fantasy based story to life.

The Creative Team for Little Nemo in Slumberland
Composer: Daron Aric Hagen
Librettist: J.D. McClatchy
Conductor: Steven Osgood
Stage Director: Martha Collins
Scenic Designer: Michael Schweikardt
Costume Designer: Howard Tsvi Kaplan
Lighting Designer: Ken Yunker
Associate Conductor: Jesse Martins

About the Commission and Co-Production:
One of Sarasota Opera’s goals for its Youth Opera Program is to periodically commission a fully realized opera for young people. Sarasota Opera commissioned the two-act, sixty-minute youth opera specifically for the young voices (ages 8 – 18) of its youth Opera Chorus. Recognizing the need to support “youth operas”, the company and the artists agreed to create a work with wider application that would be appropriate, for example, for university undergraduate programs and youth choral groups at other U.S. and Canadian opera companies. The project thus expands the performance opportunities for thousands of young singers.

Composer Daron Hagen Photo by Neil Erickson

Composer Daron Hagen flew in especially for the press conference and spoke about what motivated him to become a part of this project. He explained that at the time he was approached by Mr. McClatchy to compose the music for Little Nemo in Slumberland, he and his wife were expecting and he found himself with the desire to want to enter into the mind of his children to be. “I wanted to enter into Sandy’s (Mr. McClatchy) main image which is a world of dreams and I wanted to create music that expressed the core values of who I am as a person.” The opera took 9 months to compose and another 6 months to complete the orchestration.

“This is a fantastic company with a reputation of being world class”, Mr. Hagen explained when he discussed why he chose to work with Sarasota Opera. “I didn’t want to go on this journey with anyone but the best.”

Based on the recommendation of the composer, Dr. Everett McCorvey, Director of Opera at the University of Kentucky, agreed to partner with Sarasota Opera in the creation of this project.

“This is an ideal partnership as it brings together the best of what our two organizations have to offer in order to see this project through to completion”, says Dr. McCorvey. “It is truly a rare and valuable gift to be able to offer an opera to young people that is specifically designed for developing voices. In addition, to have the capability to be able to partner that with a high quality production to compliment the singers performances is something not readily seen at the University or Youth Opera level.” Dr. McCorvey has plans to make Little Nemo in Slumberland part of University of Kentucky Opera Theater’s 2012 mainstage spring production.

Dr. Everett McCorvey speaking at the Press Conference Tuesday
Image courtesy of Bill Wagy

“To be frank, this is a big deal”, says Executive Director Susan Danis. “We are just beyond thrilled to see this project begin to take form and to be able to offer this incredibly unique opportunity to the dedicated young singers of the Sarasota Youth Opera and the students at the University of Kentucky.”

SCRIBE Technology:

SCRIBE technology is a rear projection system that breaks the overall projection into multiple tiles. An individual projector is responsible for each tile. Each projector emits a tiled portion of the image. The collective display, ultimately, is the entire image rendered in one seamless image on screen. This new technology allows designers to create very large images without sacrificing precious stage space, which can then be given back to performers. Thus far, this technology has only been used by the University of Kentucky Opera Theater and Atlanta Opera.

Technical and design meetings have already begun at both at the University of Kentucky and Sarasota Opera. The music itself will be “work shopped” by University of Kentucky students in the spring/summer of 2012 then finally brought to Sarasota to begin rehearsals with the Youth Opera program. November 2012 will mark the World Premiere performance on the Sarasota Opera stage.

Here are some more images from Tuesday's press conference. All images are courtesy of Bill Wagy.

Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Kretzmer were amongst the audience members on Tuesday.

Composer Daron Hagen speaks to members of the press and special guests.

Librettist J.D. McClatchy and Maestro Victor DeRenzi address the audience.

Sarasota Artists present excerpts from "Little Nemo in Slumberland".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sarasota Opera's MADAMA BUTTERFLY on ABC 7

Sarasota Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, opening tomorrow night, is Linda Carson's and Sarasota ABC 7's pick of the week! Click through to see the video!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Maestro DeRenzi Honored for Excellence in Arts Leadership

Maestro Victor DeRenzi was honored on Monday, October 24th, at the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County 13th annual Awards Celebration. Maestro DeRenzi was given the 2011 Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement and the Sarasota Youth Opera offered their first public performance of the new season. Read all about it here!

Monday, October 24, 2011

SNN 6 Behind the Scenes look at MADAMA BUTTERFLY

If you missed it live on TV, check out this video of SNN 6 and their behind the scenes look at Sarasota Opera's upcoming fall production of Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY opening this Friday, October 28th.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Read what Jay Handelman and the Herald Tribune have to say about our upcoming production of Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY!

Monday, October 10, 2011

It is Giuseppe Verdi's Birthday today born in 1813 in Le Roncole, a village near Busseto! In his honor, here is a video of his famous 'Va, Peniero' from his opera Nabucco. What is your favorite moment from a Verdi Opera?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another project completed through Gulf Coast Gives!

THANK YOU DONORS AND GULF COAST GIVES!!! Thanks to your continued generous support, our Carmen will be singing in style this season and Susan Danis can put her 1st grade Carmen costume back in the closet.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Sarasota, FL – Entering its 28th year, the Sarasota Youth Opera program, the most comprehensive program of its kind in the United States, is now open for enrollment for the 2011-2012 Season for new and returning young singers ages 8 – 18. Enrollment night for returning singers will happen on Tuesday, August 30th from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm and Enrollment Night for new singers will happen on Thursday, September 1st from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm, both at the Sarasota Opera House. Rehearsals will begin the following week.

During the Fall and Winter season, the Sarasota Youth Opera will perform in outreach concerts throughout the community as well as participate in a special concert with the Sarasota Opera Apprentice Artists on March 10, 2012. In addition, Youth Opera members will be eligible to audition for the children’s chorus in Sarasota Opera’s Winter Festival productions of Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. This season promises to be particularly exciting as Sarasota Opera welcomes the new Youth Opera and Outreach Coordinator, Ben Plocher, and the new Youth Opera Music Director, Jesse Martins, in addition to preparations for a world premiere piece presented by the Sarasota Youth Opera in the fall of 2012.

Ben Plocher, who will serve as the Youth Opera and Outreach Coordinator, holds a Bachelor of Music with honors in Vocal Performance from Butler University in addition to a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Southern Methodist University. His experience working as the Operations Manager for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, a statewide choral organization consisting of 1,700 young singers in 15 different ensembles, immediately distinguished him as a well qualified candidate for the position. While at the Indianapolis Children’s Chorus, his primary responsibilities included community outreach, programming, advertising and the development of educational partnerships. "Sarasota Opera's commitment to educational outreach and programming provides invaluable access to the arts for the next generation of opera performers and enthusiasts”, says Mr. Plocher. “I am truly honored to be able to work alongside the Sarasota Opera team towards the fulfillment of such an auspicious, and important, mission."

Jesse Martins will also be joining the Youth Opera staff as the Youth Opera Music Director. Mr. Martins, originally from Brazil, most recently completed his Master of Arts in Collaborative Piano from Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA. Prior to that, he held the position of Assistant Music Director, Program Manager and Coach with Opera Factory in Auckland, New Zealand where his one of his primary responsibilities was the management of the Youth Program in addition to working with such noted conductors and singers such as Sir Andrew Davis, Wyn Davis, Emmanuel Joel-Hornak and soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. "I feel very humbled and excited for my new position with Sarasota Opera”, says Martins. “I'm thrilled to work with Youth Opera again and can't wait to start.” In addition to his degree from Mansfield University, Martins holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Enrollment Night is a fun opportunity for kids and families to meet the music director and program coordinator one-on-one, take a tour of the Opera House, and learn music in a mini-rehearsal (singers do not have to prepare a song for this exercise) to help determine placement between the Youth Opera Chorus and the Preparatory Choir. There will also be a parents meeting to go over specifics of the program, payment schedules, and other information.

Sarasota Youth Opera accepts all levels of talent and provides vocal and acting training. Tuition is $150 per session and scholarships are available based on financial need. Tuition can be paid via check, credit card or the administration can work with you to create a payment plan. The Fall Session will begin in September and the Spring Session begins in early January and end in mid May.

To sign up for either of the enrollment night, call Ben Plocher at (941) 366-8450, ext. 249.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take me out to the ball game!

Tenor Joshua Kohl
Joshua Kohl always wanted to become a baseball player. He became an opera singer instead. On March 1 he’ll have the opportunity to combine his two loves when he sings the National Anthem at the Baltimore Orioles’ first Spring Training game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays at the newly renovated Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
Mr. Kohl, a tenor, is currently singing the principal role of Don Ottavio in Sarasota Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. A huge Chicago White Sox fan, he played ball throughout his youth and was a varsity player in high school. He loves it so much that he decided to forego the high school musical in his senior year to play on the team.
Baseball and opera are family activities in Kohl’s household. His wife, soprano and Boston Red Sox fan Sarah Asmar, is a Studio Artist at Sarasota Opera this season and has sung the National Anthem at Fenway Park. There will surely be plenty of friends and family there to cheer Kohl on as his parents are locals — they live in Parrish.
The game is set for 1:05 p.m., Tuesday, March 1. Ed Smith Stadium is at 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue, Sarasota.

So who is this love 'em and leave 'em opera character?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Get ready for I Lombardi!

Our beautiful soprano Abla Lynn Hamza as Giselda and handsome tenor Rafael Dávila as Oronte get ready to perform Verdi's epic opera I Lombardi.
All Photos by Patricia G. Horwell

Monday, February 14, 2011

La bohème reviews from audience members

Don Giovanni at Sarasota Opera

Mozart's Don Giovanni playing now through March 18 at Sarasota Opera.

Photos by Rod Millington

Donna Elvira (Danielle Walker) and Don Giovanni (Lee Poulis)

Leporello (Andrew Gangestad), Don Giovanni (Lee Poulis), Zerlina (Sarah Asmar) and Masetto (Patrick McNally) are joined by chorus members

Don Giovanni (Lee Poulis) and his faithful servant Leporello (Andrew Gangestad)

Donna Anna (Christina Pier), Don Ottavio (Joshua Kohl), and Don Giovanni (Lee Poulis)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Come and Meet the Maestro

Have you seen our new video, "Meet the Maestro?" Here you'll be introduced to Victor DeRenzi, the Artistic Director of Sarasota Opera.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Have you seen our new TV commercial?

We just released a brand-new television commercial — currently running on ABC7 TV. See the folks on the stage and behind the scenes at Sarasota Opera getting ready for the season.

Watch it here:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The final dress rehearsal for La bohème is here!

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal before La bohème opens at Sarasota Opera on Saturday night! Everyone - cast, orchestra, and crew - have really been cranking it up and are ready! La bohème is an opera for all time. Don't miss this sweet story of young love and tragedy, set in 19th-century Paris. Our production is directed by Stephanie Sundine and conducted by our artistic director, Victor DeRenzi. See you there!
Photo by Rod Millington
Cast members Matthew Hanscom, Grant Clarke, Harold Meers, and Young-Bok Kim
on the set of La bohème at Sarasota Opera.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our 'Don Giovanni' on TV tonight!

Lee Poulis, the very hot baritone who will sing the title role in our upcoming production of Don Giovanni, will be on Scene Magazine's TV show SCENE Up Close, tonight at 8 p.m on Sarasota’s local Channel 189. The production opens Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Photo by Patricia G Horwell
Christina Pier as Donna Anna and Lee Poulis as Don Giovanni

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's almost time for Opening Night!

La bohème, which opens this Saturday at 4 p.m., is now ready to go into orchestra dress rehearsal! It's only a few more days until Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi conducts the Sarasota Opera Orchestra as the curtain goes up on our singers.

Photo by Patricia G Horwell
Maria D'Amato (Mìmi) and Harold Meers (Rodolfo) preparing for Opening Night, Feb. 5.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Love is in the air!

Mìmi and Rodolfo — young, beautiful, and in love! Come and meet them and other members of the cast at the Meet the Artists Preview, Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. in the William E Schmidt Theater of the Sarasota Opera House. Tickets are $15 and are available online at or at the Box Office.

Maria D'Amato as Mìmi and Harold Meers as Rodolfo in Sarasota Opera's production of La bohème,
directed by Stephanie Sundine. Opens February 5.

Photo by Patricia G Horwell

Friday, January 28, 2011

La bohème — Beautiful!

Aren't Maria D'Amato and Harold Meers just fabulous as Mìmi and Rodolfo? Wait until you hear them sing! We open February 5.
Photo by Patricia G Horwell