Thursday, April 19, 2018
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Arts Notes: Sarasota Opera's artistic director true to Verdi's vision for 30 years

When Victor DeRenzi looks disapprovingly over his shoulder from the orchestra pit at Sarasota Opera, the audience behind him quiets down. DeRenzi, the artistic director and conductor, knows what he wants and how to get it for the opera company he has been running for 30 years.

Exhibit A: the outstanding production of Verdi's Otello that is the highlight of the company's current season. "This Otello could not happen any other place," DeRenzi said in a recent phone interview. "The kind of care that's gone into it, the amount of stage time that it has gotten just isn't done at other opera companies."

For example, DeRenzi and his creative team studied the detailed production book on Otello prepared by Verdi's publisher after the opera's premiere at La Scala in 1887. It's a reflection of the company's artistic policy to stage operas the way their creators intended them to be done.

"We do what Verdi wanted," DeRenzi said. "In most opera productions these days, it's the director who comes in and decides what the production is going to look like. Here, it's me as I feel the production is represented by the composer. I would never do an opera that doesn't respect a composer's stage directions. How it looked was important to Verdi. How the singers acted and delivered their words was important."

Verdi is the key to the Sarasota Opera identity. Since a production of Rigoletto in 1989, DeRenzi has pursued a project to perform each of the composer's 28 operas, plus various revised versions. The cycle is now in its final stretch, with Un Giorno di Regno (2013), the Paris version of Don Carlos (2014), Jerusalem (2015), and Aida and La Battalia di Legnano (both in 2016) yet to come.

DeRenzi, 62, is the rare conductor who has stayed in one place. "A lot of people, in any job, and certainly in the music field, think they'll get an orchestra, then move to a bigger orchestra, and then a bigger one," he said. "My feeling when I got here was to do opera the way I thought it ought to be done, and I have never wanted to go someplace else. I couldn't do the Otello that I wanted to do at any other company."

Otello has two more performances, on Thursday and March 25. On March 25, there is also a concert to honor DeRenzi's 30th anniversary. Information: sarasotaopera.org.

• • •

David Rogers will be leaving his job as artistic administrator of the Florida Orchestra at the end of the season. Rogers, who joined the orchestra in 2004, worked closely with music director Stefan Sanderling in putting together the artists and repertoire of programs.

"David's capacity for strategic thinking, his deep understanding of both our artistic and economic situation and his tremendous devotion to our institution made it possible for TFO to overcome often overwhelming obstacles to implement my ideas for artistic projects and institutional marketing, such as the recent recording project, the cultural exchange with Cuba, partnerships with regional cultural institutions and composers and many more," Sanderling wrote in a letter to board members. "Without David's determination and musical intuition, the great success of a project like the collaboration between the orchestra and the Tampa Bay Lightning would have been unthinkable."

Rogers, 44, a composer before getting into musical administration, has no immediate plans for his future beyond the orchestra.

• • •

Jobsite Theater, in residence at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, announced its 2012-13 season, which opens Sept. 5 with Fahrenheit 451, the Ray Bradbury book-burning classic. Artistic director David M. Jenkins is scheduled to direct three plays: Gorey Stories, a "musical love letter on all things Edward Gorey"; Hay Fever by Noel Coward; and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Also on the agenda: Behind the Gates by Wendy Graf and The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh. Information: jobsitetheater.org.

• • •

Sarasota Ballet announced its most ambitious season under artistic director Iain Webb. Highlights include a new Nutcracker, with choreography by Matthew Hart and design by Peter Docherty; performances of La Fille mal Gardee, an evening-length ballet by Frederick Ashton; and a collaboration with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, including performances by the Taylor company in Sarasota in October and Taylor's popular Company B performed by Sarasota Ballet in November.

In addition to performances in Sarasota, The Nutcracker, a circus-themed version of Tchaikovsky's holiday classic, will be staged Dec. 21-22 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, with music by the Sarasota Orchestra. The ballet company will also have live music for its performance of La Fille mal Gardee in Sarasota April 18-19, 2013.

In June 2013, Sarasota Ballet will be one of nine companies selected to perform at Ballet Across America III at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Other works in the season include Antony Tudor's Lilac Garden, Christopher Wheeldon's There Where She Loves and Ashton's Birthday Offering/ divertissements and Sinfonietta. Information: sarasotaballet.org.

• • •

Fans of Smash, the musical theater melodrama on NBC, might enjoy a taste of the real thing. A "real life" audition and master class for the Broadway Theatre Project will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday on the main stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The project, directed by Debra McWaters, is a well-regarded summer training program in Tampa whose alumni include many Broadway performers. The auditions are open to dancers, singers and actors age 16 and older, who pay a fee of $35 to register. Admission to watch the auditions is free. Information: broadwaytheatreproject.com; (727) 712-2706.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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