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Arts / Culture

Sarasota Opera Winter Season Is 'The Season Of Love'

Executive Director Richard Russell knows the Sarasota Opera from the inside out, having served as an opera apprentice, in the chorus and then as a featured artist, a tenor. 

Most operas are about love, he said.

And this season, the company is performing some of the best known love stories in all of opera, including: La Boheme, the famous opera by Giacomo Puccini, upon which the Broadway hit, Rent is based, and Charles Gounod's Romeo and Juliet, which doesn't quite end the way it does in Shakespeare's play.  

A man and a woman embracing
CREDIT: Rod Millington for Sarasota Opera

The Sarasota Opera created a specific subtitle for each of the operas.  For example, La Boheme, love is fragile, "Mimi is the fragile one in that opera, she's near death, even at the beginning of the opera," Russell said. 

Russell said the timeless appeal of Romeo and Juliet is why they called it, love is forever.

"The whole crux of the Elixir of Love is this elixir, which is really a bottle of Bordeaux," that is why they called it, love is intoxicating, Russell said.

The opera contains a famous aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima (a furtive tear). 

Russell explained the song's appeal from a performer's view, "I think, first of all,  in the context of the piece, you're a comic character, and the opera is very funny, and all of a sudden you have this moment of great reflection and great emotion, and it's quite a change from the rest of the opera; it's got such a gorgeous melody, a wonderful accompaniment and it's quite fulfilling to sing." 

Two men gesticulating in old-timey costumes
Credit Rod Millington for Sarasota Opera
A scene from The Elixir of Love

And as for La Wally, Russell said it's a story with a "series of misunderstandings...one hurts another several times during the course of the opera and ultimately ends in tragedy."

This production of Romeo and Juliet is known for a particularly difficult song the soprano must sing, called Je Veux Vivre, and in it, Juliet talks about how she plans to live her life, but that's before Romeo shows up.  

Russell said the opera will feature two of the company's favorite performers. Hanna Brammer, will be singing Juliet. She sang Pamina in the Sarasota Opera's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute last year. And Andrew Surrena, who sang the role of Tamino in the same production, will sing the role of Romeo. 

A woman in a night gown
Credit Courtesy of Sarasota Opera
An image from Romeo & Juliet

Opera fans are a devoted bunch. And Russell tried to explain why that is. "I think because opera is so all-encompassing, it includes everything, includes music, includes drama, includes dance sometimes, sets and costumes and the music can be so passionate and so emotional, that it really takes you to the edge."