Sarasota Opera Winter Season

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By Steven J. Smith

Sarasota Opera’s 2018 winter season will feature productions of three previously unproduced works plus one Maestro Victor DeRenzi says is a can’t-miss chestnut that is sure to please.

“Two of the three we’ve never done before — Norma and Manon Lescaut — have been requested quite often,” said DeRenzi, who serves as Sarasota Opera’s director and principal conductor. “They’re very popular operas, done all over the world, and we should have done them by now. The other opera, Tiefland, we chose because it’s not done often. We have a large number of people that come to Sarasota to see operas they can’t see anyplace else.”

Carmen, which Sarasota Opera last produced in 2012, rounds out the season and will employ the same sets and stage director as last time, he added. It will, however, have a brand new cast and a new conductor.

“There are operas that people want to see often,” DeRenzi said. “And there are operas that are very good for people to see who are new opera lovers. These never wear thin and should be a standard part of any opera company’s repertoire. Carmen is such an opera. You can do it every six years or so and audiences will enthusiastically welcome it back.”

DeRenzi added the process of choosing operas is an exacting one. A middle ground is often sought between works a seasoned operagoer would want to see and those that might be interesting to newer audiences. Another deciding factor lies in considering the variety of composers and their countries of origin. This year, for example, there is one French opera (Carmen), two Italian (Manon Lescault and Norma) and one German (Tiefland).

“There’s also the technical aspect, that audiences are never aware of,” DeRenzi said. “This consists of the kinds of sets each opera has, how those sets fit together on our stage, how much the chorus sings in each opera, what kind of singers I need. When you’re doing four different operas in a weekend, as we’re doing in March, that aspect becomes very important.”

The following are brief descriptions of the operas with featured cast members and creative teams:

Manon Lescaut, composed by Giacomo Puccini, directed by Stephanie Sundine and conducted by Victor DeRenzi with Sandra Lopez as Manon Lescaut, Matthew Vickers as Cavalier des Grieux, Filippo Fontana as Lescaut and Costas Tsourakis as Geronte. Cavalier des Grieux and the enchanting Manon Lescaut experience love at first sight and flee to Paris, but when Des Grieux’s money runs out Manon leaves him for a wealthy man. However, her love continues to burn for des Grieux in ways they do not foresee.

Carmen, composed by Georges Bizet, directed by Martha Collins and conducted by John F. Spencer IV with Lisa Chavez in the title role, Hanna Brammer as Miceaela and Cody Austin as Don Jose. This ill-fated love story follows the tumultuous relationship between a gypsy and a corporal. The opera takes you on a journey through Seville, to the mountains with smugglers and ultimately to the bullring, where the story reaches its dramatic conclusion.

Norma, composed by Vincenzo Bellini, directed by Mark Frieman and conducted by Maestro DeRenzi with Joanna Parisi in the title role and Cameron Schutza as Pollione. A Druid priestess and a Roman official defy her sacred vows and have two children. When he leaves her, she contemplates his murder.

Tiefland, composed by Eugen d’Albert, directed by Michael Unger and conducted by David Neely with Kara Shay Thomson as Marta and Ben Gulley as Pedro. Marta, the unwilling mistress of a wealthy landowner, is married off to a shepherd, Pedro. When her awful secret comes to light, he attempts to free her from her misery.

DeRenzi stressed Sarasota Opera is the ideal place for anyone to see an opera, from the novice to the most experienced audience member.

“Everything we do is real,” he said. “The repertoire we do defines what we are. We give very impassioned performances that are connected very much to the drama and the words of an opera, as much as they are to its music. We also supply simultaneous translations in English to foreign language operas above the stage, so you can follow the drama of the piece every moment.”

Sarasota Opera is located at 61 N. Pineapple Ave. in Sarasota. The opera season begins on Feb. 10 and runs through March 24. Ticket prices range from $19-$139. For more information about the opera’s season or to order tickets, call the box office at (941) 328-1300 or log on to www.sarasotaopera.org.

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