Sarasota Opera Opens 2019 Winter Festival With Puccini's Majestic Turandot

Sarasota Opera Opens 2019 Winter Festival With Puccini's Majestic Turandot

Three riddles stand between love and death in Giacomo Puccini's last and most majestic opera, as Turandot returns to the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 7:00pm. The passionate tale of intrigue and mystery is based on an age-old Persian fairy tale and set in legendary Peking. The Princess Turandot, sung by Kara Shay Thomson, is so desirable that men come from all over the world to win her love, and yet underneath her royal beauty beats a cold heart, turned bitter by desire to avenge the honor of an ancestor.

The fearless prince Calaf, played by tenor Jonathan Burton, takes on the challenge posed by the three questions he must answer to win her hand in marriage. If he errs, he will lose his head just like countless princes before him. Will he outwit her, or will he face a gruesome death? Soprano Anna Mandina will play the faithful Liù, a slave girl loyal to Calaf's father Timur, sung by returning Sarasota Opera favorite, bass Young Bok Kim. The most outspoken of the three royal ministers, Ping, will be sung by baritone Filippo Fontana, returning after his celebrated performance as Figaro in Fall 2018's The Barber of Seville. Stephanie Sundine is the stage director of this critically acclaimed production of Turandot, which premiered in 2013, with Maestro Victor DeRenzi conducting. Turandot is one of the grandest operas to ever play the stage of the Sarasota Opera House, with 74 performers on stage and one of the largest orchestras assembled in opera house history.

Dramatic soprano Kara Shay Thomson sings the role of the ruthless blood-thirsty empress. Ms. Thomson is proving herself a versatile and essential artist on the operatic and concert stages. She first performed at Sarasota Opera as Tosca in 2009 (and again in 2015) and most recently appeared as Marta in Tiefland (2017).

Sports aficionados, along with others who may have never entered an opera house have likely heard the most famous blockbuster aria, "Nessun dorma" ("Let no one sleep"), sung by Prince Calaf in the dramatic third act. This vocally demanding aria entered the realm of popular culture in 1990 at the famous "Three Tenors" concert, sung by Luciano Pavarotti. Tenor Jonathan Burton, who made his Sarasota Opera debut in the 2013 production premiere, is set to deliver what the audience will be waiting for. He has been praised by Opera News for his "powerful, full-bodied sound" and "brilliant top notes."

Giacomo Puccini's operatic life

Giacomo Puccini lived a life as large as his opulent music. The opera that would be his last, Turandot, premiered at La Scala on April 25, 1926 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. Only 18 months prior to the opening, the composer died suddenly of a heart attack, the aftermath of drastic surgery for throat cancer. The opera remained unfinished, until Franco Alfano was commissioned to complete the opera from the composer's sketches. At the opening night performance, Toscanini conducted the opera only up to Liù's death, at which time he put down his baton and announced: "Here the maestro laid down his pen."

Turandot is sung in Italian with English translations above the stage. Individual tickets start at only $19 and are available at SarasotaOpera.org and in the Sarasota Opera Box Office. For more information on Turandot as well as the rest of the 2019 season-Mozart's The Magic Flute (opening February 16), Verdi's Nabucco (opening March 2), and a comic double bill: Donizetti's Rita and Wolf-Ferrari's Susanna's Secret, (opening March 9)-contact the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300 or visit in person at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236.

This production of Turandot is graciously sponsored by Bud and Betty Shapiro, in honor of the 60th Anniversary Season.

Sarasota Opera is celebrating its 60th Season of bringing world-class opera to Florida's Gulf Coast. The company was launched in 1960, when a touring chamber opera company came to the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota's Ringling Museum of Art. The following year the Asolo Opera Guild was formed to present the season. By 1974 the Asolo Opera was mounting its own productions at the theater. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to full-scale opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater which in 1984 (as the Sarasota Opera House) became home to the newly renamed Sarasota Opera. The building underwent a $20 million renovation and rehabilitation in 2007 enhancing audience amenities, while updating the technical facilities, including increasing the size of the orchestra pit. The theater, which reopened in March 2008, has been called "one of America's finest venues for opera" by Musical America.

Since 1983, the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi and administrative leadership of Executive Director Richard Russell since 2012. Sarasota Opera has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as the Verdi Cycle, completed in 2016, that made Sarasota Opera the only opera company in the world to present all of Verdi's works. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice and Studio Artists programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its Explorations in Opera performances for local schools and the industry-leading Sarasota Youth Opera program.

Sarasota Opera is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs are supported in part by an award from the Tourist Development Tax through the Board of County Commissioners, the Tourist Development Council and the Sarasota County Arts Council. Additional funding is provided by the City of Sarasota and the County of Sarasota.

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