Sarasota Opera pulls the plug on American opera series

March 17, 2013

Sarasota Opera’s short-lived American Classics project opened in 2011 with Robert Ward’s “The Crucible,” featuring Sean Anderson and Heather Johnson.

Launched with great fanfare in 2011, Sarasota Opera is pulling the plug on its American Classics Series after just three years.

Despite critical acclaim and much nationwide praise for the company’s adventurous initiative, Sarasota Opera’s new executive director Richard Russell says that local audiences have not embraced the American project, and that the current production of Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men will be the last work in the series.

“We are very proud of the American Classics Series and feel that it was a significant artistic success,” said Russell in a statement on Sunday. “While many in our audience have appreciated our introducing them to these works, response as a whole was not what we had hoped.”

Privately, some company officials said that Sarasota audiences, composed largely of well-heeled culturally conservative seniors, disliked and even “hated” the operas presented and let their feelings be known in several letters and phone calls to the company.

Sarasota Opera will present a concert of American music in 2014 and Russell said that the company will continue to offer American operas in the future, though he indicated that no specific productions are currently planned.

Sarasota Opera’s production of Floyd’s Of Mice and Men runs through March 23.

3 Responses to “Sarasota Opera pulls the plug on American opera series”

  1. Posted Mar 18, 2013 at 8:33 am by Nate

    That’s too bad…

  2. Posted Mar 18, 2013 at 9:41 am by Viva Verdi

    Well, the comment above says it all:
    “Sarasota audiences, composed largely of well-heeled culturally conservative seniors, disliked and even “hated” the operas presented”.
    If you take a look at the program book, the first 50% is comprised of photos of donors, and clearly this company needs this kind of support from these kinds of people to keep going.
    They’ll be down to playing only the ABCs (Aida, Boheme, Carmen) when the Verdi series (one of the most enterprising things to come out of Sarasota this past 15 or more years) is over in 2016.
    For me there will be no reason to go back.

  3. Posted Mar 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm by SmarterThanThat

    “Sarasota audiences, composed largely of well-heeled culturally conservative seniors, disliked and even “hated” the operas presented.”

    Nope, just Victor DeRenzi and his minions did.

    I guess this letter in the local paper (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) just SEETHES hatred for American works…or not (again, that’s just Victor):

    Letter to the Editor, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
    March 16, 2013

    “My husband and I were dismayed by the number of empty seats at the Sarasota Opera House for the opening night of Carlisle Floyd’s “Of Mice and Men” last Saturday night. Those who had tickets, and did not attend or give their tickets to others, whether because of schedule conflicts or the fear that an American classic would be dissonant and tedious, missed a unique and unforgettable experience.

    “In our 13 years of attending performances at Sarasota Opera, we have never seen anything as moving, powerful and emotionally devastating as the performance Saturday night. It was the finest piece of musical theater the company has presented since we first became subscribers and supporters.

    “It was a tribute to the masterful presentation of this modern classic that the audience’s response to the first curtain call by “George” and “Lennie” was a thunderous roar of appreciation, followed by nearly equivalent approbation when the other singers took their bows. And when Carlisle Floyd, the composer of this iconic work that premiered in 1970, appeared on stage for a bow, there was no question that we who witnessed the performance were in the presence of genius.

    “If any readers of this paper hesitated to attend “Of Mice and Men” for whatever reason, I urge them to set aside their preconceptions and take the opportunity to experience something remarkable. They will find themselves immersed in one of the great American stories of all time, superbly presented by Sarasota Opera.”

    ~ Laurie Smith
    Sarasota, FL