A man in a tuxedo
Courtesy of Sarasota Opera

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. 

In 1939, opera singer Marian Anderson was denied access to perform at Washington D.C.'s Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The reason: the color of her skin.

Opera may seem like work for the grand stage.

But at the front of a crowded assembly room in Lake Worth imaginatively costumed performers recently presented an epic tale of striving, loss and the triumph of friendship: The Adventures of Lola & Friends.

Credit Marty Sohl / Metropolitain Opera via Associated Press

I'm in the third row, watching the Metropolitan Opera perform Giuseppe Verdi's  Il Trovatore. It's a pretty good view. I could see the anguish in a character's face as she sings an aria about an angry mob burning a woman alive. That event ignites the classic opera's flames of revenge -- flames that can only be doused with blood. 

But I wasn't watching the performance at New York's Lincoln Center. I was a little over 1,000 miles away, in an auditorium at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.