Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice Awards $100,000 for Renovation of Sarasota Opera House

Sarasota Opera has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. The proceeds of the grant will be used towards the costs of the ongoing $20 million renovation of the Sarasota Opera House.

November 27, 2007 10:00 AM


Richard Russell, Director of Marketing
(941) 366-8450, ext. 245

Patricia G. Horwell, Communications Officer
(941) 366-8450, ext. 332

Sarasota, FL - Sarasota Opera has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. The proceeds of the grant will be used towards the costs of the ongoing $20 million renovation of the Sarasota Opera House. The award will help transform the 1926 Opera House by funding the purchase of new lighting for the skylight over the soaring three-story central atrium, and exterior lighting that will underscore enhancements to the Opera House façade and adjacent courtyard.

As Florida's largest community foundation, with $260 million in assets, Gulf Coast Community Foundation funds grants and programs that are designed to contribute significantly to improving quality of life in a broad range of areas for citizens in the communities it serves. The Foundation builds strong communities through leadership, partnership, and endowed philanthropy. Foundation funding in the area of Arts and Culture, as with Sarasota Opera, is awarded to projects and programs that enhance the enjoyment and understanding of various art forms, as well as for significant cultural or historic resources.

This critical and timely support from the Foundation will be acknowledged on a "Behind the Scenes" central lobby plaque and will also assist the Opera in meeting a Capital Challenge Grant of $500,000 from The Kresge Foundation by June 1, 2008. A Kresge Foundation award is national level validation of the quality of thoughtful design and careful execution of capital projects, and underscores the importance of the Opera House renovation to the community. The Challenge amount is contingent on the Opera's successful completion of its $20 million campaign by the end of its fiscal year. To meet its goal Sarasota Opera must raise an additional $1 million between now and May 31, 2008.

The 32,000 square feet of the Sarasota Opera House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, are undergoing a dramatic restoration and renovation which has seen the interior of the building near-gutted to the bare walls. Decorative details are being restored, the orchestra pit enlarged to allow of an expansive of the opera company's repertoire. Backstage systems, including new lighting and surtitle equipment, are being updated. Seating in the auditorium is being replaced in a new layout to improve sightlines and lobby spaces are being expanded and enhanced.

Much of the money spent on the renovation will go to items never seen by the audience, such as structural repairs, replacement of building systems, and added hurricane protection. The $100,000 Gulf Coast Community Foundation grant however will be used for elements that are designed to be seen. The new exterior lighting is perhaps the most visible, and therefore the most accessible, manifestation of the changes and improvements patrons of Sarasota Opera House will experience.

About Sarasota Opera

Based in Florida's beautiful Gulf Coast, Sarasota Opera is in now in its 49th season. In 1960 the company began presenting chamber-sized repertoire in the historic 320 seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota's Ringling Museum of Art. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater in downtown Sarasota in 1979. Renovations began in 1982 and the 1,033 seat theater, now on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 1984 as the Sarasota Opera House. Since 1983 the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi. Since then the company has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as the Verdi Cycle producing the complete works of Giuseppe Verdi. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice Artist and Studio Artist programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its OPERA-tion performances for local schools and the unique Sarasota Youth Opera program.

The Sarasota Opera House is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and restoration. The project is designed to restore the historic 1926 theater to its original glory, while creating a venue for opera for the 21st century. Decorative details are being restored, seating is being replaced, and the orchestra pit has been enlarged to allow for an expansion of the repertoire. Backstage systems are also being updated and public areas and amenities expanded and enhanced. Construction is scheduled to be completed in January 2008, to allow for March opening to the 2008 Opera Festival.

Sarasota Opera's 2008 Winter Opera Festival will open on March 1, 2008 with Verdi's Rigoletto. The season, which will run through April 13, will also include Puccini's La rondine, Verdi's rarely-heard I due Foscari (The Two Foscari) and conclude with Mozart's Così fan tutte. Subscriptions and single tickets for the 2008 Opera Festival are now on sale.

Sarasota Opera is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs are supported in part by an award the Tourist Development Tax through the Board of County Commissioners, the Tourist Development Council and the Sarasota County Arts Council. Additional funding is provided by the City of Sarasota and the County of Sarasota.