Rich history of Sarasota Opera House just as fascinating as the artists who take its stage

Artists have been entertaining audiences at the Sarasota Opera House for more than 60 years. 

"We've done many productions of various operas, a lot of standard operas, but also a lot of operas that cannot be seen any place other than here," shared Victor DeRenzi, artistic director and principal conductor of Sarasota Opera.

The venue was originally the Edwards Theatre in the 1920s. 

"There were a lot of great performers over the years who were here, including Will Rogers, the Ziegfeld Follies and Elvis performed here in 1954," said Richard Russell, general director of Sarasota Opera. "It was a building with a lot of history, a great venue and was about to go away." 

So, when the Sarasota Opera was looking for a home, they bought the building in 1979 and opened the Sarasota Opera House in 1984. 

"Because of the growth of the arts in downtown Sarasota, with the service of the Opera House and at about the same time Florida Studio Theater opened, it sparked a real revitalization of the downtown area in Sarasota. And now it's this bustling downtown that we have these days," Russell remarked. 

The Sarasota Opera House got a $20 million facelift in 2008. 

"Some of the original design was a bit tacky by today's standards, but we did go back to a lot of the original, maybe not the original colors, but a lot of the original molding and that part of it,"  added DeRenzi. 

The opera company has a unique distinction. 

"We're the only opera company in the world to have performed all of Verdi's music and that happened over a 28-year period," explained DeRenzi. 

More than 40,000 people a year come to the opera house to watch the performances. 

"I'm very optimistic that this will be a place for people to gather in Sarasota for a long time," said Russell. "It’s a very special place for people who love the performing arts. The new season starts this month.

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