Sarasota Opera announces public phase of $40M

Comprehensive Campaign and the acquisition of opera
costume collection from Malabar Ltd.


October 8, 2019
Contact: Lana Mullen, Communications Coordinator
(941) 328-1322
[email protected]

Sarasota Opera Association, Inc. kicked off the final and public phase of a $40M comprehensive campaign and celebrated the acquisition of an historic collection of opera costumes from Toronto-based Malabar Ltd. at an event on October 8, 2019 at the Sarasota Opera House hosted by Executive Director Richard Russell and Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi.

The $40M campaign — of which $35M has already been raised — is designed to position Sarasota Opera for the future through an increase in annual giving, growth of the endowment, and to provide funding for capital projects.

The “quiet” phase of the campaign began in 2014. Since then:

  • Over $3M has been raised to support capital projects, including the building of the Steinwachs Artists Residences which opened in January 2016.
  • Sarasota Opera’s endowment has doubled to $9M.
  • An additional $17M has been generated in annual support.
  • Through the Ernie and Alisa Kretzmer Legacy Challenge more than $10M in legacy pledges have been made to the Sarasota Opera Endowment.

Of the remaining goal of $5M, $2M will go to costs related to the acquisition of costumes from Malabar Ltd. To house this collection, a new climate-controlled warehouse is being built that will consolidate not only the costume collection but also props, sets, and scenery.

To launch the final phase of the campaign and the costume project, longtime Sarasota Opera supporters Paul and Sharon Steinwachs, through the Steinwachs Family Foundation, have pledged a generous Challenge Grant of $500,000, contingent upon Sarasota Opera raising $500,000 in cash by December 31, 2019. To date $250,000 of that goal has been raised.

Sarasota Opera’s Executive Director Richard Russell states “The acquisition of this collection will ensure the high quality of Sarasota Opera’s costumes for years to come, under the guidance of our Resident Costume Designer Howard Tsvi Kaplan.”

Since the late 1950s Malabar has been a leading independent provider of costumes to opera companies in North America. The collection consists of costumes for over 130 opera productions, including over 30,000 individual costumes. The collection features costumes worn by such opera legends as Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, and Marilyn Horne.

Sarasota Opera’s Resident Costume Designer Howard Tsvi Kaplan has numerous exceptional designs in the collection, and his longstanding relationship with Malabar’s owner Luigi Speca was instrumental in the purchase of this extraordinary legacy.

The purchase of the Malabar collection will significantly cut costume costs for Sarasota Opera productions going forward. In addition, it will generate income from rentals to performing arts companies in need of authentic, high quality costumes.

“The success of the ‘Investing in the Extraordinary’ Campaign has helped position Sarasota Opera for the future,” according to Executive Director Richard Russell. “The endowment growth, the artist residences, which helped solve a longstanding housing problem, will have long term positive effects for the company. Now with the costume acquisition, we have contained costs for the future and created an avenue for future earned revenue, helping to create a stable funding base.”

About Sarasota Opera

Sarasota Opera is entering its 61st Season of bringing world-class opera to Florida’s Gulf Coast. The company was launched in 1960, when a touring chamber opera company came to the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. The following year the Asolo Opera Guild was formed to present the season. By 1974 the Asolo Opera was mounting its own productions at the theater. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to full-scale opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater which in 1984 (as the Sarasota Opera House) became home to the newly renamed Sarasota Opera. The building underwent a $20 million renovation and rehabilitation in 2007 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 and administrative leadership of Executive Director Richard Russell since 2012. Sarasota Opera has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as the Verdi Cycle, completed in 2016, that made Sarasota Opera the only opera company in the world to present all of Verdi’s works. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice and Studio Artists programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its Explorations in Opera performances for local schools and the industry-leading Sarasota Youth Opera program.

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 from 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.


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