Sarasota Opera pulls the plug on American opera project

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Sarasota Opera’s short-lived American Classics project opened in 2011 with Robert Ward’s “The Crucible,” featuring Sean Anderson and Heather Johnson.

Launched with great fanfare in 2011, Sarasota Opera is pulling the plug on its American Classics Series after just three years.

Despite critical acclaim and much nationwide praise for the company’s adventurous initiative, Sarasota Opera’s new executive director Richard Russell says that local audiences have not embraced the American project, and that the current production of Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men will be the last work in the series.

“We are very proud of the American Classics Series and feel that it was a significant artistic success,” said Russell in a statement on Sunday. “While many in our audience have appreciated our introducing them to these works, response as a whole was not what we had hoped.”

Privately, some company officials said that Sarasota audiences, composed largely of well-heeled culturally conservative seniors, disliked and even “hated” the operas presented and let their feelings be known in several letters and phone calls to the company.

Sarasota Opera will present a concert of American music in 2014 and Russell said that the company will continue to offer American repertoire in the future, though he indicated that no specific productions are currently planned.

Sarasota Opera’s production of Floyd’s Of Mice and Men runs through March 23.

Posted in News

4 Responses to “Sarasota Opera pulls the plug on American opera project”

  1. Posted Mar 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm by Klaus Pfund

    How sad – the production of Carlisle Floyd’s “Of Mice and Men” was one of the best and most exciting ventures I have experienced in Sarasota during the past 20 years. It was musically and scenically one of the absolute highlights of anything Sarasota Opera has done in recent memory. Thank you for trying a slightly more contemporary approach – but I guess major donors are very conservative in their taste. The vast majority of the audience at the Floyd opera though seemed to enjoy the performance tremendously.

  2. Posted Mar 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm by Ann Roth

    I agree heartily with the comments by Klaus Pfund regretting the demise of the American Classics Series and stressing the enthusiasm of the audience for Of Mice and Men. But it may not be the conservative taste of major donors that led to this decision. Those big donors have supported the Sarasota Opera for years, and they are among the most regular and enthusiastic attendants at every opera of every season. So it is a little hard to lay the demise of the American Classics Series at their door. What we need is more small donors and subscribers with more adventurous tastes. I don’t know how you get them except by personal contacts and conversation.

  3. Posted Mar 20, 2013 at 10:27 am by John McLaughlin Williams

    Perhaps the objections were more to the particular choice of American repertoire rather than objection to the venture itself. Floyd’s opera has been done many times, and I personally would not have made the effort to see it. What if the company had gone in a more original direction, such as reviving Henry Hadley’s opera “Cleopatra’s Night”, which made a big splash at The Met during the interwar years? Perhaps an opera by the American composers Nicolas Flagello or Vittorio Giannini would have made more friends for this company’s honest effort at giving exposure to deserving native works. Just imagine if they had put on an opera by William Grant Still. I imagine audience response would be a good deal more enthusiastic. Though history instructs to the contrary, let’s hope other opera companies will pick up this ball and keep it going. As a musical nation, we simply have not yet done true justice to American opera.

  4. Posted Mar 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm by William Decker

    As an avid worldwide opera lover (300 plus performances) I have never been thrilled by Sarasota’s big operas, often cast with singers who must push their voices out of beauty to get the volulme Rienzi wants. The American series was not only better musically, but comfortably suited to the acoustics of the opera house.

Leave a Comment

Sun Mar 17, 2013
at 5:17 pm