Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

Sarasota Opera introduces 'Vanessa' to the community

Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm

by June LeBell

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Last year, it was Robert Ward’s dramatic opera, “The Crucible.”

This season, Sarasota Opera is bringing us Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa,” a Gothic love story with a passionate libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti based on a set of stories attributed to Isak Dinesen. (That “attributed” thing is part of a long, rather convoluted and somewhat esoteric historical controversy among scholars that we won’t go into here … ) Suffice it to say, this is an opera of passions, unfulfilled appetites, infatuations and obsessions that would feed any blood-and-guts thirsty audience and many a dramatic singer with good strong vocal cords and a lust to be the drama queen of the century.

Sarasota Opera is taking “Vanessa” out to the community, and it won’t put anyone in danger. In fact, their idea is to introduce this anti-heroine-of-song to as many people as possible before she takes command of the Opera House at the March 10 opening of this work.

First up is a conversation with the great American soprano, Johanna Meier who was a leading Wagnerian voice at the Met for some 14 years. She played the title role in the Barber opera when it was televised in 1978 from the Spoleto Festival USA. Meier is going to be this year’s Opera “sweetheart” but, in getting the word out about “Vanessa,” she was interviewed tonight by Sarasota Opera’s artistic administrator, Greg Trupiano, at the Longboat Key Education Center.

At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, February 18, at Burns Court, and Saturday, March 3, at the Lakewood Ranch Cinema, there’ll be screenings of that scrumptious 1986 movie, “Babette’s Feast,” which was Dinesen’s first published story. Those offerings are a delicious collaboration between the Sarasota Opera and the Sarasota Film Society. And they’re free.

But that’s not all. In a third collaboration between Sarasota Opera and another local arts organization, third-year students from the Asolo Conservatory will blend with the Studio Artists of the Sarasota Opera at 5 p.m. March 13, in the Opera House, to explore the various influences of Barber, Menotti and Dinesen in “spoken” and “sung” passages from the related works.

Collaborations are the way to go in these days of artistic and cultural sharing. Kudos to Sarasota Opera for being innovative and reaching out to our community in so many ways.

Information and reservations for all these collaborative events may be found online at www.sarasotaopera.org or by calling 328-1300.

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