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I Lombardi to open this weekend

February 21, 2011

Patricia G. Horwell, Communications Officer
(941) 328-1334

Sarasota Opera continues its popular Verdi Cycle with a production of I Lombardi, which opens Saturday, February 26. An epic piece, Verdi tells the story of the First Crusade. Marauding crusaders, religious pilgrims, even a harem are featured in this drama of feuds, warriors, jealousy, passion, and patricide set to Verdi’s rousing score.
Rafael Dávila, a favorite with Sarasota audiences, returns to perform the role of Oronte. Last year he was Carlo VII, the King of France, in Verdi’s Giovanna d'Arco and before that he played the role of Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca.  Among the highlights of his calendar for the 2010-11 operatic season are his performances as Pollione in Norma with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Ismaele in Nabucco with Palm Beach Opera, and Rodolfo in La bohème in Amsterdam.
Bass-baritone Kevin Short returns to portray Pagano. He last appeared in Sarasota as a memorable Philippe II, King of Spain, in the 2009 production of Don Carlos. The 2011 season marks Mr. Short’s 20th anniversary of his debut with the company in 1991 singing Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust. Since that time, he has established a reputation as an international artist, performing at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, LA Opera, and Washington National Opera, as well as with companies in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, and Portugal.
Soprano Abla Lynn Hamza sings the role of Giselda. No stranger to Sarasota Opera, she has been a member of the Studio Artist program here from 2008-2010 and has sung the roles of Clorinda in last fall’s La Cenerentola and the First Lady in the winter 2010 production The Magic Flute. She is the recipient of Recipient of the Daniel R. Mandelker and Marlene N. Harris Fund Grant
Tenor Matthew Edwardsen sings Arvino, his first principal role with Sarasota Opera. As a member of the 2010 Winter Studio Artist program he performed in The Magic Flute and Giovanna D’Arco. Mr. Edwardsen also will be singing the role of Judge Danforth in Sarasota Opera’s upcoming production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible.
Finally, bass-baritone Benjamin Gelfand will play Pirro. Mr. Gelfand, who also sings Benoît in this season’s La bohème and The Commendatore in Don Giovanni, was Alidoro in last fall’s La Cenerentola, a Studio Artist from 2008 to 2010, and an Apprentice Artist in 2006. He is a recipient of the Bradenton Opera Guild's Helen Jepson Dellera Fellowship Award.
Martha Collins returns to direct. Previously she directed here Giovanna D’Arco in 2010; The Exlir of Love and La traviata in 2009; I due Foscari in 2008; Attila in 2007; and I masnadieri in 2006. She was the stage director for the Apprentice Artists from 2004 to 2008 and again in 2010.
Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi will conduct the Sarasota Opera Orchestra. Jeffrey W. Dean designed the set and Howard Tsvi Kaplan, the costumes. Ken Yunker is lighting designer and hair and make-up designer is Georgianna Eberhard.
Tickets for the opening performance of I Lombardi are still available and start at $19.  There will be an additional six performances through March 20.
Other operas to be performed in repertory during the Festival are Puccini’s La bohème, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Robert Ward’s Pulitzer Prize winning opera The Crucible, based on Arthur Miller’s Tony Award winning play of the same name. Tickets are available now at the Box Office in the Pavilion Building of the Sarasota Opera House, by phone at (941) 328-1300, or online at