Hitting A High Note

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Rosanne Martorella’s support of Sarasota Opera
By Steven J. Smith

Rosanne Martorella is quick to sing the praises of Sarasota Opera as a lifelong opera buff and trustee with the organization.

“My husband Louis and I joined the Sarasota Opera Guild soon after moving here,” she said. “We got very involved with it. We ran various events and I began to give lectures. We were lifelong members of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, so the connection to Sarasota Opera came very easily to us.”

Martorella and her husband, a retired gynecologist, share a passion for opera. They moved from New York to Sarasota six years ago and resonated right away with our art community in general and Sarasota Opera
in particular.

“With the work I did and the colleagues I met at universities and conferences in and around New York, there would always be some link to Sarasota,” she said. “Art and culture connected the two and I felt if it’s good for New York, it’s good for Sarasota.”

Their involvement with the Sarasota Opera has since deepened, from lectures to trusteeship and even participation in the opera’s Kretzmer Legacy Challenge, through which the organization is building its endowment.

“Both Lou and I have added Sarasota Opera to our estate plans,” Martorella said. “We contribute every year as co-producers, which is a minimum of $5,000 a year. That goes towards the production of a particular opera. This year we co-produced The Italian Girl in Algiers. Last year we co-produced Beethoven’s Fidelio. Ernie Kretzmer said for anyone who makes a planned gift he will donate $10,000, so Lou and I both jumped on it.”

A professor emerita from William Paterson University, Martorella spent her career lecturing on the relationships between art and society. She has also authored books along those lines — Art and Business, Corporate Art and The Sociology of Opera — and her recent research activities have delved into comparative cultures and global migrations.

“Ever since I’ve come to Florida, though, my emphasis has been on art and patronage,” she said. “In my lectures on various operas for the Sarasota Opera Guild, I summarize the composer’s life and the content of the opera while showing video inserts of various singers that are some of my favorites. Louis and I grew up hearing opera from our grandparents and parents. It’s always been an important part of our lives.”

Martorella has actively participated in any community in which she has lived. In New York she served on the Boards of Nyack Hospital, St. Thomas Aquinas College and the National Organization of Italian American Women. She is also a member of the Explorer’s Club and has received the Republic of Italy’s prestigious Cavaliere Medal — the most prestigious award that can go to a non-citizen of that country.

“We raised quite a bit of money for earthquake victims as well as for different mission and charity work around Italy,” she said. “I’ve always been a strong advocate for Italian-American affairs and their role in the political life of the United States.”

These days, Martorella devotes herself to Sarasota Opera’s finance and audience development committees.

“With audience development, I’ve given several lectures to community groups,” she said. “I’ve also started an improved college student pass/mentor program. For the price of a $25 card, students can show up 30 minutes before operas and get a seat in the audience. I’ve reached out to three area colleges — USF, Ringling and New College — and so far we’ve got 30-35 students for whom various board members have either bought or donated these passes for students.”

Martorella added this program has started to snowball, because participating students are encouraged to bring a friend and for $10, that friend can join them for the performance.

“Then we hope to serve as mentors to the students, meeting them at the opera house, showing them around and telling them about the opera,” she said. “It’s a way of fostering and growing the love of opera among young people.”

Martorella maintained Sarasota Opera is looking to secure its place in the cultural scene well into the future by ensuring a stable, fiscally sound opera company that provides economic sustainability and housing for up to 70 visiting artists in the newly established Steinwachs artists residences in town.

“We’re ensuring a stable, fiscally sound opera company because of the sustainability and the housing,” she said. “That gives us freedom for repertory choices, including more future productions of less familiar works.”

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