Memorable performance venues enhance the overall musical experience
Twenty-two of the planned thirty-nine performances for Artist Series Concert of Sarasota 2012/2013 Season take place in the remarkable setting of the Historic Asolo Theater. Comfortable seating, excellent acoustic and sightlines combine with theater’s the jewel-like setting to create an ideal space in which to enjoy world-class musicians.
Our eight-performance Soiree Series is presented in the music room a one-of-a-kind residence in Sarasota. Our audiences enjoy not only high quality musical entertainment, but also the ambiance of enjoying the music in a private setting. Each soiree experience is enhanced by delicious light foods and beverages.
The new “Lunch, Look & Listen” Series of three performances combines nourishment of three senses with imaginative luncheons, varied visual components, and professional musical presentations. Presented in the ballroom of Michael’s On East.
Artist Series Concerts is delighted to return to the beautiful Sarasota Opera House for a very special performance on December 11, 2012. National Public Radio’s internationally syndicated series “From the Top” will bring talented young performers to the stage before a live audience. The performance will be taped for later broadcast through more than 200 NPR stations and an audience of over 700,000.
In February 2013 Artist Series Concerts returns to its former home in Holley Hall in the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center in Sarasota for two performances by the Vida Guitar Quartet.
The Historic Asolo Theater at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – Sarasota
Given John Ringling’s great passion for the expressive movement, color, and emotion found in the stage-like settings of Baroque art, it is most apt that the Museum’s first director, A. Everett “Chick” Austin, Jr., should have so dramatically expanded the great showman’s collection by acquiring an 18th-century Italian court theater. Today, as the only original Baroque playhouse in America, the Asolo serves not only as an accompaniment to the founder’s collection of art, but also as a functioning “exhibit-in-use,” providing the ideal setting for a diverse roster of theater, music, dance, film, and lectures.
The theater remained in its nascent setting until 1931, when it was dismantled and removed to make way for a modern film theater. German antiquarian Adolph Loewi purchased the ornamental panels and decorative elements and stored the artifact in Venice for the duration of World War II.
In 1949, the Ringling Museum, under Chick Austin’s direction, purchased the Asolo Theater for the sum of $8,000 – and thus, the little gem of a theater that had flourished and languished in Italy, was crated and shipped from Venice – first to New Orleans, then to Tampa, and finally by truck to Sarasota. The theater opened in its new American home in 1952. However, by the close of the 20th century, the Historic Asolo was underused and underfunded. It again fell into disrepair.
With the adoption of the Ringling Master Plan in 2000, work was underway to restore the Asolo Theater. The panels were again dismantled, and the Museum’s conservation staff worked painstakingly for over two years to conserve and restore the theater’s ornate beauty. The 2006 reinstallation in the Museum’s Visitors Pavilion adheres to the guidelines set forth in 1964 by the International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments in the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites: “the aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value – based on respect for original material and authentic documents. It must stop at the point where conjecture begins … any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.” Hence, the structure that envelops the 18th-century artifact, along with the auditorium seating and ambient lighting, are all distinctly of the 21st century.
The eight performances of the Soiree Series take place in a gracious private residence
In addition to its ability to accommodate 85 guests, the music room in this residence is home to five vintage keyboard instruments. Two large pipe organ consoles (Wurlitzer 1931, and Kimball 1923) control more than 2,000 pipes and a host of real tuned percussion instruments housed in “hidden chambers.” A 1922 nine-foot Steinway Concert grands dominates over two additional pianos – a 1923 seven-foot Steinway Duo-Art reproducing grand and a seven-foot Mason & Hamilin Ampico reproducing grand.
The Sarasota Opera House
In April 1926, the A.B. Edwards Theater was unveiled. The Sarasota Herald Tribune hailed Edwards for “having admitted Sarasota into a fairyland of costly decoration, rich furnishings and never to be forgotten artistry”. The entrance facade of the theater was designed in the very popular Mediterranean Revival style of the era. Cream colored stucco embellished with ornamental plasterwork and imitation stone delighted the opening night audience. The theater became a popular venue for a variety of entertainment’s over the years. The top headliners of the time were to grace its stage. On January 31, 1952, it became host to the world premiere blockbuster DeMille movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” which had been filmed in Sarasota.
The years were not kind to the original integrity of the Edwards Theater. In 1973, the theater was finally dark, neglected – and vacant. Meanwhile, a non-profit organization called the Asolo Opera Guild had been hard at work bringing opera to Sarasota. From modest beginnings, in 1979, the Guild purchased the old Edwards, becoming the 7th opera company in the United States to own its house.
A series of renovations during the early 80s and 90s were undertaken to bring the theater back from the brink and to make it a viable operatic venue. Work was done as funds permitted. By 1984 the stage, orchestra pit, and orchestra section were done to open the theater with its first production.
However, years of neglect had taken their toll and a more extensive overhaul was indicated. From March 2007 to February 2008 Sarasota Opera embarked on the first holistic renovation of the original 1926 structure. The interior of the auditorium was gutted to allow for a new larger orchestra pit and a regrading of the orchestra section floor to improve sightlines. New seats and historically appropriate decorations enhance the theater space. The backstage facilities were updated and the orchestra fitted with an hydraulic lift. The lobby features a restored three-story atrium as well as additional restrooms, lounges, and other audience amenities. At the completion of the $20 million project Musical America called the Sarasota Opera House “one of the finest venues for opera in the United States.”