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2011 Press Releases

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May 3, 2012

Sam Lowry, Communications Officer
(941) 328-1322

Sarasota Opera Receives NEA Art Works Grant to Support
World premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland 

Grant part of NEA announcement of 788 Art Works grants and
$24.81 million in funding nationwide

Sarasota, FL – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman announced today that Sarasota Opera is one of 788 not-for-profit national, regional, state, and local organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant.  Sarasota Opera is recommended for a $22,500 grant to support the technology design and creation for the world premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland.  This marks the third grant received from the NEA for this project, the first being a grant in the amount of $15,000 towards the commissioning of the piece and the second in the amount of $25,000 to help cover the initial production costs associated with the commission. 

The 788 Art Works grants total $24.81 million and support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

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 a two-act, ninety minute youth opera by composer Daron Aric Hagen and Librettist J.D. McClatchy specifically for the young voices (ages 8 – 18) of its Youth Opera chorus.  Recognizing the weak support given to “youth operas” of limited scope, 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 thus expanding performance opportunities for thousands of young singers. 

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.  To help bring the fantasy based story to life on stage, Sarasota Opera will utilize a new leading edge, innovative theater projection technology, SCRIBE (Self-Contained Rapidly Integratable Background Environment), that was piloted at the University of Kentucky and has already been successfully used in productions at the University of Kentucky Opera Theater and The Atlanta Opera.   

Chairman Landesman said, “The arts should be a part of everyday life. Whether it’s seeing a performance, visiting a gallery, participating in an art class, or simply taking a walk around a neighborhood enhanced by public art, these grants are ensuring that across the nation, the public is able to experience how art works.”

"Furthering chairman Landesman’s comment, Sarasota Opera not only agrees that the arts should be a part of the publics everyday life, but specifically children’s lives as well”, says Sarasota Opera Executive Director, Susan Danis.  “We are truly thankful for the progressive vision of the NEA as this grant will help us to ensure the once in a lifetime opportunity we are able to offer the young community of Sarasota in presenting the world premiere of a fully staged opera.  There is nowhere else in the United States offering this kind of opportunity to children between the ages of 8 and 18.”

The NEA received 1,624 eligible applications under the Art Works category for this round of funding, requesting more than $78 million in funding. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at

Based in Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, Sarasota Opera is approaching its 53rd consecutive 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 and first performing in it in 1984 as the Sarasota Opera House. The theater has just undergone a $20-million renovation and rehabilitation enhancing audience amenities, while updating the technical facilities including increasing the size of the orchestra pit. The theater, which reopened in March 2008, has been called “one of America’s finest venues for opera” by Musical America.

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 Invitation to Opera performances for local schools and the unique Sarasota Youth Opera program.

Sarasota Opera just completed their 53rd consecutive season on March 25th to critical acclaim.  The 2011 Fall Season featured Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.  The 2012 Winter Festival included Bizet’s Carmen (opéra-comique version with spoken dialogue), Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi’s Otello, and Barber’s Vanessa.

The 2012 Fall Season will run from October 26th through November 12th and will open with Verdi’s Rigoletto and be followed by the world premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland, commissioned for the Sarasota Youth Opera with music by Daron Hagen and words by J.D. McClatchy.  The 2013 Winter Season will open February 9, 2013 and run through March 24, 2013 and will include Puccini’s Turandot, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Verdi’s A King for a Day and Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men

Subscriptions for the 2012 – 2013 Fall and Winter Season are now on sale and available by calling (941) 328-1300 or visiting the Sarasota Opera Box Office at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue. Single tickets will go on sale August 1st online ( and September 4th in the Box Office.

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.