Youth Opera Program

The Magic of Opera for All!

Since 1984, Sarasota Youth Opera has given thousands of young people ages 8 to 18 an opportunity to experience the joy of opera firsthand through participation in fully-staged Youth Opera productions, Sarasota Opera main stage productions, summer camps, and concerts throughout the community.

Sarasota Youth Opera is the only program in the United States committed to both presenting an annual full-scale opera production for young voices, as well as accepting all who wish to participate regardless of skill level or ability to pay.

This fall, the Sarasota Youth Opera is presenting The Little Sweep on November 4 and 5, 2023 by Benjamin Britten. Details about this particular opera can be found here.

What our Program offers

Through our year-round training, singers develop their voices, musicianship, acting skills, and appreciation of opera as they build their confidence within a supportive and collaborative community.  

Youth Opera Productions

During the fall season, all members perform in a full-scale Youth Opera production with professional staff to guide, mentor, and help them to excel!  The only auditions held are to cast the solo roles.  

This fall, the Sarasota Youth Opera is presenting The Little Sweep on November 4 and 5, 2023. For details and ticket information about this opera, go here.

Part of Sarasota Opera’s commitment to young people includes commissioning new operas written for children and young adults. Six new works have been presented as part of this mission: Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country (2017), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), John Kennedy’s The Language of Birds (2004), Tom Suta’s Eye of Ra (1998), Polly Pen’s Her Lightness (1993), and Deadline (1989).

Our Past Fully-staged Productions:  
2022   The Secret World of Og
2019   Brundibár / Raise Up Your Voice
2018   The Little Sweep 
2017   Rootabaga Country (Commission/World Premiere)
2016   The Secret World of Og (U.S. Premiere)
2015   Brundibár / Raise Up Your Voice
2014   The Hobbit 
2013   The Little Sweep 
2012   Little Nemo in Slumberland (Commission/World Premiere)
2010   The Black Spider 
2008   The Hobbit (U.S. Premiere)
2006   The Second Hurricane 
2005   The Little Sweep 
2004   The Language of Birds (Commission/World Premiere)
2003   The Piper of Hamelin 
2002   The Happy Prince 
2002   Down in the Valley 
2001   The Second Hurricane 
1999   The Black Spider 
1998   Eye of Ra (Commission/World Premiere)
1998   Brundibár 
1997   Arabica 
1996   Pinocchio 
1995   African Jigsaw 
1994   Ocean World 
1993   Her Lightness (Commission/World Premiere)
1992   Yanomano 
1991   Karlsson on the Roof (American Premiere)
1990   Cornelius Coyote (World Premiere)
1989   Deadline (Commission/World Premiere)
1988   Cinderella 
1987   The Frog Prince 
1986   Chanticleer 
1986   Space Opera/Rooster Rag/Jack and the Beanstalk

Opera Mainstage Season

Youth Opera members have the opportunity to participate in Sarasota Opera’s mainstage professional productions in 3 ways:

As members of the children’s chorus in operas such as Tosca, La bohème, Turandot, and Carmen 

In special solo roles written for young voices. In recent seasons Youth Opera members have performed roles alongside the professional singers in The Magic Flute, Tosca, and The Marriage of Figaro.

As non-singing extras (also called supernumeraries) 

Youth Opera Choruses

Youth Opera performs throughout the community in formal concerts and community events.  Selections performed are chosen from classical music, which includes opera and choral pieces in different languages.  Singers are placed in an appropriate chorus which provides a setting for them to participate and progress at their own level as they gain greater skills and experience.

This is the main focus of the winter/spring season which runs from January through April.

Summer Camp

Each June, Sarasota Youth Opera offers summer camps for young people. Under the direction of Sarasota Opera’s professional artistic and production staff, campers experience the wonder of opera on the stage and behind the scenes as they study its many facets, from music and acting to opera appreciation and the many elements of an opera production. To learn more, please visit

Come Sing With Us!

2023 Fall Semester - Fall Production

Sarasota Youth Opera is excited to announce the 2023 Youth Opera Production of Benjamin Britten's The Little Sweep. This is a fully staged production with sets, costumes and orchestra with our Youth Opera singing most of the lead roles and chorus. Through beautiful music, the opera tells the heartwarming story of little Sammy who has been apprenticed to a cruel Chimney Sweep. All the children of the house join together to save Sammy and safely send him back to his family!

In addition to performing in The Little Sweep, Youth Opera members also will have the opportunity to audition to be part of the children's chorus in Sarasota Opera's 2024 Mainstage Production of Bizet's famous opera Carmen where they will sing on stage with professional opera singers!

2023 Fall Calendar

The semester starts the week of August 14th and culminates with performances on November 4th, 5th and 6th. 



SYO accepts any singers aged 8-18 into the program. No auditions are necessary to be a part of the production, but singers may audition for speaking and singing roles. 

Prep Chorus:
-Ages 8 - 10 
-August/September - Saturday mornings from 10:00 - 11:00 AM.
-October - Saturday mornings from 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM with additional rehearsals for tech week.
Mixed Chorus:
-Ages 11 -18
-August/September - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 - 8:30 PM
-October - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 - 8:30 PM Saturdays from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
-Enrollment opens June 30th and runs through August 4th.
-Rehearsals begin the week August 14th.
-All rehearsals and performances take place at the Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave Sarasota FL 34236



Registration is open. You can register here. 


Prep Chorus: Ages 8 - 10 - $225
Must be 8 or older by April 30, 2024
Mixed Chorus: Ages 11 - 18 - $275
Must be 11 or older by April 30, 2024

Tuition Assistance

Financial assistance is available. If the cost of tuition puts a burden on your family, please fill out the tuition assistance application when you register. 


Medical Release Form

For your child’s safety, a parent or guardian will need to sign and have our Medical Release Form notarized prior to your singer’s first rehearsal. There will be a notary at the first few rehearsals to help complete this paperwork.

Story of the Opera

Boston in the early 19th century. 

While their parents are away, Juliet, George, and Sophie are being visited by their cousins Johnny, Tina, and Hughie Crome and their nursery maid, Rowan. 

Big Bob, Clem, and their new apprentice Sammy arrive to clean the chimneys. Miss Baggott, the housekeeper, orders them to start in the nursery while Rowan begs the sweeps not to have young Sammy do such dangerous work. They ignore her, and Sammy is forced up the chimney. 

While playing hide and seek, the children hear Sammy's cries for help. They free him and decide to make it seem as if he has escaped through the window. Hearing the adults returning, they all hide. 

Their plan is successful and the sweeps, along with the housekeeper Miss Baggott, run out to follow the trail of footprints while Rowan hopes for Sammy's safety and freedom. Hearing Rowan, the children reveal Sammy and ask for her help. Sammy is bathed and given new clothes, and they learn he was apprenticed to the sweeps because his family needed money. They decide to hide Sammy in a traveling trunk so that, unseen, he can be carried out of the house when the Cromes depart the next day. When they hear Miss Baggott, the children hide Sammy in the toy cupboard and Juliet creates a distraction by pretending to faint.

During the night, Sammy listens to the birds. At dawn he is given breakfast and money before being hidden in the trunk. Tom, the coachman, and Alfred, the gardener, arrive to carry the trunk out to the carriage. Juliet, George, and Sophie watch from the window as the carriage departs and Sammy begins his journey to freedom.

Future Youth Opera Opportunities

If you are unable to join us this fall for our production, please keep in mind for the future:
YO Winter Semester: Chorus & Concerts- January 2024 - May 2024
YO Summer Camp: June 10 - 28, 2024

Youth Opera Alumni

Alumni, we miss you and want you back! 2024 is the 40th anniversary of Youth Opera! We are planning special events!  Visit the Youth Opera Alumni page to sign up so we can keep in touch!


Please contact us at [email protected] or (941) 328-1329.
Interested in supporting the Youth Opera programs? Learn more.

Youth Opera Faculty & Staff

Martha Collins

Martha Collins

Martha Collins
Director of Education & Stage Director
[email protected]

Stage Director Martha Collins has been praised by reviewers for her 'world-class, magical staging', 'mastery of zany, comic fun' and 'her direction of insightful character portrayals' and ‘quality’ productions.

Miss Collins recently directed Attila at Sarasota Opera, where her previous productions include of Dialogues of the CarmelitesToscaCarmenMadama ButterflyRomeo and Juliette, La Traviata, Nabucco and L’Elisir d’Amore. As part of the company’s complete Verdi Cycle, Miss Collins directed productions of I LombardiI due FoscariAttilaGiovanna D’ArcoI MasnadieriJerusalemUn Giorno di Regno, and La Battaglia di Legnano. She has also served as stage director for Sarasota Opera’s Apprentice Program since 2004. 

For Sarasota Youth Opera, Miss Collins directed the world premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012) and Rootabaga Country (2017), the U.S. premieres of Burry’s The Hobbit (2008, 2014) and The Secret World of OG  (2016), The Black Spider (2010), The Second Hurricane (2006) The Little Sweep (2005, 2013, 2018) for which she also wrote the new Prologue of Let’s Put on an Opera, and Brundibár (2015, 2019) for which she also wrote an original prologue in collaboration with Jesse Martins (Sarasota youth Opera music director). 

At New York University, she directed The Magic Flute, Orpheus in the UnderworldL’Enfant et les Sortilèges, and productions of her new libretto translations of The Audition and The Finishing School by von Suppé.  Other productions include Side by Side by Sondheim and A Talent to Amuse – an Evening of Noel Coward at New England Conservatory, Il Tabarro and Amahl and the Night Visitors with Opera North, Floyd's Susannah and L’Elisir d’Amore for Opera Mozart in New Jersey, Dido and Aeneas at Brevard, and Lucia di Lammermoor and Tosca with New Jersey Verismo Opera.

Martha has taught acting at New York University, Swarthmore College, Ryder University, Manitoba University, the Florence Voice Seminar in Italy, and she maintains a private studio for vocal and dramatic coaching in New York City.

As a singer, she performed extensively throughout her native Canada both as a concert and operatic performer, and has been heard on CBC's Arts National Radio in numerous recitals and orchestral concerts.  Her televised appearances include Micaela in Carmen with Vancouver Opera and the opening gala of the world Expo in Vancouver, both of which were aired internationally.

Jesse Martins

Jesse Martins Headshot-Max-Quality

Jesse Martins
Music Director
[email protected]

Maestro Jesse Martins holds a Master of Arts in Collaborative Piano from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil).

Since joining Sarasota Opera in 2011 Maestro Martins has served as Youth Opera Chorus Master for mainstage productions such as Carmen (2012, 2018), OtelloTurandotPagliacci and Tosca, in addition to being the understudy conductor for Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2014), Le nozze di Figaro (2015), L'italiana in Algeri (2017), and Tiefland (2018). He also served as Chorus Master/Associate Conductor for Sarasota Youth Opera’s world premiere of Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), and conductor for Britten’s The Little Sweep (2013, 2018), Dean Burry’s The Hobbit (2014), Hans Krása’s Brundibár (2015), Burry’s The Secret World of Og (2016, U.S. Premiere), and Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country (2017, World Premiere).

During the 2018-2019 season Maestro Martins conducted Britten’s The Little Sweep and made his professional debut with the company on Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

Prior to his graduate studies, he was the Assistant Music Director and Program Manager for Opera Factory Theater (Auckland, New Zealand), a training center for young singers. While in New Zealand, Mr. Martins worked with soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, British Maestro Sir Andrew Davis, coach Rosemary Barnes, and acted as chorus pianist for NBR New Zealand Opera’s production of Janáček’s Jenůfa. While a Graduate Assistant at Mansfield University, Mr. Martins was a coach for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, accompanied the Concert Choir in the Eisteddfod competition in Wales (UK), and performed at the Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival (NY).