All 6 entries will revisit popular, previously performed works, some after many years
It was still three days from the opening night of “La Bohème” to mark the start of the Sarasota Opera’s 2020 Winter Festival, but a fair-size crowd was making its way into the Sarasota Opera House late Tuesday afternoon.
With anticipation for the start of the season running high, and with their characteristic flair for the dramatic, Sarasota Opera officials decided it was the right time to announce the lineup for the 2020-21 season.
Executive Director Richard Russell and Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Victor DeRenzi did the honors of unveiling the season onstage.“Travel” is the theme of the 2020-21 season, which consists of five operas set in five far-off places — six if you count the children’s opera and a land set in a fantasy realm.
While the season will take audiences far and wide, for longtime opera-goers it might feel like a trip down memory lane, as every entry in the season familiar territory for the Sarasota Opera, although it’s been few years — and in one case a few decades — since the opera has covered this ground.
The the six stops along the journey of the 2020-21 season will be:
“The Daughter of the Regiment”
“The Pearl Fishers”
The fall season will begin Oct. 6 with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Set in 17th century Spain, the story centers on the on the fabled womanizer Don Juan, and one of his conquests that leads to obsession, betrayal, crime and retribution.
“We have not done ‘Don Giovanni’ since 2011,” DeRenzi says offhandedly. “You remember Mozart, he was quite amazing.”
Rounding out the fall season will be the children’s opera entry, Dan Burry’s “The Hobbit,” based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, Nov. 13 and 14. “It is probably the favorite of our youth opera members because they all get to come on stage with sticks and things and fight,” Russell says. It’s been long enough to let them have at it again. The Sarasota last staged “The Hobbitt” in 2014.
The 2021 Winter Festival will open Feb. 6 with a fan favorite, Puccini’s “Tosca.” Set in Rome, it is a tale of treachery and loyalty as a police chief, intent on capturing a fugitive, coerces a famous diva into a position where she is forced to make a horrific choice to save her beloved, a friend of the escaped prisoner.
Sarasota Opera last did “Tosca” in 2014. “It’s quite a special production,” DeRenzi says. “You’d think our stage was about four times bigger than it actually is, thanks to the set design by David Gordon, who, DeRenzi added, also did the set design for this season’s “La Bohème.”
For the next production, you have to go back 34 years since the last time Sarasota Opera performed Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Presented in French, “It’s a wonderful comedy,” Russell said. “It is well known for being the the opera in which the tenor has the aria with a nine high Cs.”
Next up will be “The Pearl Fishers,” by Georges Bizet, opening Feb. 20. Set in Ceylon, it’s about two men whose friendship was once tested by romantic jealously. When the woman that once came between them reappears, they will face a new test.
“The Pearl Fishers” was not one of the most widely performed operas when the Sarasota Opera first did it in 2000, Russell says. It was a hit then and again in 2013. “It’s a beautiful opera that has now become more popular,” Russell says, “and I think it’s our fault”
The final entry of the season returns to Rome for Giuseppi Verdi’s “Attila,” opening March 6. Last performed here in 2007, it had traditionally not one of Verdi’s most widely performed operas, DeRenzi says, but has gained in popularity in recent years.
“It has one of my favorite lines in Italian opera, which is, ‘You may have the universe, but leave Italy for me,’” DeRenzi says.
After the official announcement, the party moved upstairs for a cocktail social, but before closing the presentation, but before they rose from their seats, DeRenzi stops them.
“There’s one major thing happening before next season,” he says, takes a beat, then continues, “and that’s this season.”