Sarasota Opera House Re-Opens with a Once-In-A-Lifetime Gala on March 1, 2008

Following its $20 million renovation and restoration the historic theater reopens with Verdi's Rigoletto followed by a Gala Celebration.

January 24, 2008

Contacts: Richard Russell, Director of Marketing

(941) 366-8450, ext. 245

Patricia G. Horwell, Communications Officer

(941) 366-8450, ext. 332

SARASOTA, FL - After ten months of intense work, the renovation of the Sarasota Opera House will be complete and the theater will reopen on March 1, 2008 with a performance of Verdi's beloved Rigoletto followed by the Grand Re-Opening Gala Celebration. This once in a lifetime black-tie event will start Sarasota Opera's 49th season and open the 2008 Opera Festival. Sarasota opera-lovers have been eagerly anticipating the reopening, which promises to be a unique evening in the history of the city.

The Renovation

Following the conclusion of Sarasota Opera's 2006-07 season last March, the historic Sarasota Opera House has been undergoing a dramatic transformation. The auditorium was gutted to the bare walls and support structure. The entire interior has been completely and lovingly renovated to recreate and enhance the beauty of the 1926 theater while creating a memorable performance experience for Sarasota Opera audiences. The lobby has been expanded with additional public spaces, dominated by a dramatic three-story atrium. Decorative details have been carefully restored and enhanced by dedicated craftspeople. Amenities for audience members have also been augmented to include more concessions and significantly upgraded and increased restroom facilities.

Inside the auditorium the entire seating area has been redone with a new layout and new seats that recreate the look of the original 1926 theater. More boxes and wheelchair accessible positions have been added. The size of the orchestra pit has been nearly doubled and updated technical facilities have been installed backstage. The theater exterior has also been repainted and is being fitted with new decorative lighting. Every surface within the theater has been re-decorated and painted with historically respresentative decorative finishes.

The Grand Re-Opening Gala Celebration

The festivities will kick-off at 3 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the Sarasota Opera House. Dignitaries and donors who made the renovation possible will join Executive Director Susan Danis and Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi to cut the ribbon to reopen the Opera House. For the next hour ticket holders to the opening night performance will have the opportunity to explore the expanded lobbies, new concession areas, and beautifully appointed amenities of the Opera House.

An on-stage presentation and acknowledgement of the people who made the renovation possible will begin at 4 p.m. The architect, consultants, contractors, and the artisans who did the work on the building will also be recognized. This will be followed by a performance of one of Giuseppe Verdi's most well-known operas, Rigoletto. Baritone Michael Corvino will sing the title role, with Erica Strauss as his daughter Gilda, and Rafael Dávila as the licentious Duke of Mantua. The team responsible for Sarasota Opera's critically acclaimed productions of Puccini's Tosca (2004), La bohème (2006), and Madama Butterfly (2007) will also be in charge of this new production of the Verdi favorite. The stage director will be Stephanie Sundine, David P. Gordon has designed the sets, and Howard Tsvi Kaplan is responsible for the costumes. Sarasota Opera Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi will conduct.

During the intermissions audience members will partake of complimentary buffet stations which will be situated throughout the lobbies.

Following the final applause, those holding reservations to the Gala Celebration will adjourn to an elaborate tent behind the Opera House. Featuring chandeliers and vaulted ceilings, this will be a unique venue for the sumptuous opening night feast to follow. Catered by Michael's On East and consisting of a four-course gourmet meal, dancing, and other special highlights this celebration will cap off a truly remarkable evening in the history of Sarasota and usher in a new era for the Sarasota Opera House.

The co-chairs for the Grand Re-Opening Celebration are Ed and Jane Bavaria and Larry and Carol English. The Private Client Group of National City Corporation is the corporate sponsor and SRQ Magazine is the media sponsor.

Tickets to the Grand Re-Opening performance of Rigoletto ranging from $100 to $500 are still available. Reservations for the Grand Re-Opening Gala Celebration are $500 per person and are purchased separately. Tickets, reservations, and more information are available from the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 366-8450, ext. 1 or online at

About Sarasota Opera

Based in Florida's beautiful Gulf Coast, Sarasota Opera is in now in its 49th season. In 1958 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 now in the final stages of 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 have been restored, seating has been replaced, and the orchestra pit enlarged to allow for an expansion of the repertoire. Backstage systems have been updated and public areas and amenities expanded and enhanced. Construction is near completion, in preparation 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 at the box office at (941) 366-8450, ext. 1, 1-888-OPERA-12, or in person at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236. Tickets can also be purchased on line at

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.