Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

Sarasota Lights

Posted June 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm

by June LeBell

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The other night, after hearing the Sarasota Music Festival give one of the most exciting concerts we’ve heard in a long time at the Sarasota Opera House, we stepped out onto Pineapple Avenue and I had this funny déjà-vu-all-over-again feeling that I was back in New York City, exiting Avery Fisher Hall and seeing the teeming crowds streaming from all the other theaters at Lincoln Center: The Met, Vivian Beaumont, New York State Theater (now named something else) and Alice Tully Hall.

I remember, as a child, visiting Sarasota and thinking, "Wow! What a dead downtown this is. It’s too quiet for me. I could never live here."

Now, downtown Sarasota is as vibrant and alive as Times Square except the air and streets are cleaner, there are palm trees and flowers, and I know almost everyone I pass. I also feel safe, and happy, and secure, things I never felt in Times Square, even though I was born in Manhattan and spent most of my life there.

The Music Festival was choc-a-bloc full that night and it seemed at least a third of the audience was under 30. Okay. Maybe they were students participating in the Festival. But they were there, cheering on their colleagues and, according to one conversation I overheard on the way in, hating the idea that the Festival was over and they would go home the next day.

Then, just a door or two down the street, the Golden Apple was letting out, spewing happy audience members into the street after their evening watching “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

The cars were lined up all along the street and, once we started to move, we realized that Florida Studio Theatre, just a couple of steps away, had also let out with people happily gesticulating as they discussed the evening’s Improv and “Beehive, The 60s Musical.”

Wouldn’t my parents be surprised if they could come back to Sarasota’s vibrant downtown and look around? They loved it here because it had so much culture: classical music, opera, art galleries, theater.
But the Sarasota of the 60s and 70s was nothing like the Sarasota of today.

Would they like it? I think they’d love it. And I can feel their pride radiating in me. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


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