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The classic and historic Sarasota Opera House

by Roger Pettingell

Opera House: More than just live opera

Film festivals, classic movies, concerts and more in downtown Sarasota

Opera and more in downtown Sarasota
Opera House - A venue for a variety of performances located at 61 N. Pineapple Ave., downtown Sarasota

The live opera season begins November 1 with six performances of Rigoletto and continues through March 22 with 41 days of opera, a five-opera season for the organization. This downtown venue is home to the Sarasota Opera, now in its 59th season. Opera was first performed in the Historic Asolo Theater on the Ringling grounds, but it wasn’t until 1982 that a permanent home was established when the former A.B. Edwards Theater was purchased and opened as the Sarasota Opera House.

The Opera House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, continues as host to a variety of events and live performances. In 2008 the Opera House underwent a $20 million restoration project to bring it up to its original glory of ornate fixtures, luxury carpeting and interior that brings out the classic opera look but presents itself as a 21st century structure. Under the artistic direction of Victor DeRenzi and Executive Director, Richard Russell, the cultural arts of Sarasota will be preserved for many years.

It has been the home of many different performances and movies, each year with a schedule of classic movies, concerts and lectures. Upcoming events this month include the 1948 classic movie, Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, on August 23. On August 25 at 1:30 PM, the opera film Die Walkure is on the big screen.

Throughout the year there are more shows including the last classic movie of the summer season, Young Frankenstein, September 6 followed by the Nutcracker ballet on film that Sunday. Two weeks later, La Traviata, an opera film will be shown. There are other events too, the sixth annual Taste of Downtown is becoming a tradition in Sarasota. The September 21 event ends the summer in Sarasota with entrees prepared by downtown restaurants and craft beers from local breweries.

The concert East Marries West on October 4 brings together Pandit Shubhendra Rao on sitar, Vidushi Saskia Rao-de Haas on the Indian cello, and accompaniment of Aditya Kalyanpur on the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument with a set of drums played like bongos. This world-class performance at 7 PM has tickets available now through their box office.

In October there is a series of discussions with opera themes to help understand opera at the Kamlet Library, including a discussion on how things change have changed, ensembles in opera and Walt Whitman with his passion for the opera. The series of four sessions concludes with a discussion long-time opera fans Richard and Greg.

Opera and more in downtown Sarasota
2008 restoration - A return to the classic opera house

The Jonas Kamlet Library is one of six event spaces that includes the main William E. Schmidt Opera Theatre with its capacity of 1,174. The Kamlet Library is popular for business meetings with seats for 150 guests and a large-screen TV for presentations. The library and Felding Hall & Donna Wolf Steigerwaldt Courtyard with a 125-person capacity are both available rental venues in a stunning setting.

Three other rooms in the Opera House are lesser known. The Worthington Board Room has 24 seats for a reception or 40 seats set up in banquet style. The Joy Culverhouse Room has a capacity of 95 set up as a theater of 50 when arranged as a classroom. It makes a classic board meeting or retreat room. The large 339-seat Lee and Bob Peterson Great Room has a wide variety of uses for business or personal use such as wedding receptions.

Tours of the Opera House are scheduled on select days in November, February and March. Concerts at noon by apprentice and studio artists are scheduled in the Peterson Great Room, November and March. Visit the Sarasota Opera House website or call (941) 328-1300 for dates and times and to reserve a rental of these facilities, the theater or to rent a set and costumes.

The Sarasota Opera House has played a pivotal role in the annual Sarasota Film Festival, which will be in its 22nd year when it opens March 27, 2020. In past years, the Opera House has been the venue for the opening night film when the red carpet is rolled out for actors, directors and other dignitaries. The Opera House is host to other events during the 10-day festival. This year the Sarasota Film Festival starts out with three screenings this month at SFF Cinematheque, 500 Tallevast Rd, #105. Two classics, The Godfather movie appears August 24 and 2001: A space odyssey will be shown August 31. A special screening of Surviving Lunch is the fictional story of a girl who is moved to Florida by her mother following the death of her father in a mass school shooting. She takes on school bullies in this movie showing on August 24. Each of these SFF screenings is preceded by a film historian discussion and followed with a Q&A session.

Mezzanine level
Mezzanine level view - Total theater seating is 1,174

The Opera House is the place where The Greatest Show on Earth, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston made its Florida premiere when the movie house was named the Florida Theatre. It was mostly filmed in Sarasota during six months of local production in 1950 and made its award winning debut in 1952. The premiere was reenacted in 2017 to kick off its classic movie series. Members of the Circus Arts Conservatory were on hand to perform before the movie. You could feel the excitement from the local audience guests, particularly when the circus made its way through Sarasota and evoked memories from some of the classic businesses shown in the scene.

As for live opera, there is no disappointment there. The Opera House has become world renown for its rejuvenation of classic opera and the Verdi Cycle, his complete works performed. It begins this year with Rigoletto, one of the greatest musical works by Giuseppe Verdi. Love is Dangerous starts a run of Love operas, the second La boheme with Love is Fragile, 13 shows February 8 through March 21. Romeo and Juliet, Love is Forever, February 15 with nine performances ending March 20. The Elixir of Love, Love is Intoxicating, runs February 22 through March 21, with the finale Love Hurts a new production that begins February 7 and ends March 22. Each opera is sung in Italian or French with subtitles flashed along the top of the stage. The complete set of performance dates are on our upcoming schedule of events.

If your passion is the love of the arts, Sarasota is at the center. Named by American Style Magazine as the top arts destination in the country for populations under 100,000, Sarasota produces theatrical arts in opera, orchestra, ballet, concerts and top-quality plays. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.


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Sarasota Calendar of Events

by Roger Pettingell

Sarasota Schedule for Cultural Events

Calendar for opera, ballet, concerts, festivals, other events

Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
Van Wezel - Some of our 200 events are here, including the Lewis Black show November 13 with presale tickets Wednesday and Thursday for eclub members.

I know a couple here in Sarasota that are only interested in the opera. They know the dates and times of the Sarasota Opera House, and will even travel to Tampa for the Florida Opera Festival at the Straz Center. I have other friends that want to know the festivals, symphonies, plays, and concerts that are performed at the many venues in Sarasota and Manatee counties. My calendar of events is for the opera enthusiasts and those that want to know all the events in the area.

The calendar is updated often with a wide variety. I find the most important events in Longboat Key and Sarasota and post them first. For instance, the Classic Corvette show on St. Armands Circle is on the schedule for this weekend with the The Ballet Russes at the Sarasota Opera House. The schedule this weekend is diverse with the Poetry Life Weekend at the Florida Studio Theatre and It Only Takes a Moment play starts its run at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Or American Pie which was held over to May 10 to become the longest running play in Florida Studio Theatre history of 42 years. At most times there are over 200 events listed from Sarasota, to Tampa, to Venice.

And now that most schedules are released for the 2015-2016 season and beyond, our schedule reaches as far out to  March 17, 2017 with the symphony pop series, the Gulfshore Trio at the Historic Asolo Theatre. The schedules for ballet, opera, symphony orchestra, and concerts are all on the calendar as well as most events held at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. We try to put the festivals and special shows on the calendar as far in advance as possible.

They are arranged first by date of current running shows with multiple dates, then by the date in the next section. I like to make sure the benefit dinners and shows for local charities are listed as I am on the board of directors on such local organizations such as the Southeastern Guide Dogs or Forty Carrots Family Center. All local charity organizations need our help and we place their events on the calendar.

Sarasota Opera House
Many of the events for the 2015 Sarasota Music Festival will be held at the Sarasota Opera House.

Last week we put up the schedule for the Sarasota Music Festival, the first three weeks in June. Put on by the Sarasota Orchestra under the new direction of Anu Tali, this year has its excitement level high. Many of these concerts were sold out last year so a subscription on the website guarantees your spot. Each weekend begins with an Artist Showcase every Thursday in Holley Hall. The first is Music by the Masters on June 4, followed by Pyrotechnic Pedagogues, June 11, and Delightful Duets on June 18. The Friday Festival series begins June 5 with Dazzling and Petite. This series in the Sarasota Opera House continues with Sixes and Eights and concludes with Classically Charged on June 19. Saturday Symphony 1 starts off with a lecture series in Holley Hall, then a concert at night each Saturday in the Sarasota Opera House. The first is Romantic Legends, followed by Beethoven’s Eighth, June 13, then Brahms and Beethoven on the last night of the festival. There is a series of three student recitals in Holley Hall June 7, 14 and 19.

I am on the board of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and we just received their schedule for the next season. Some good shows are lined up. Spunk is running now through May 17, an award winning off-Broadway show with high energy. Next up is the Cotton Club Cabaret that starts July 8, a high spirited musical that made its debut in 2000. The next season starts with the critically acclaimed motion picture and Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Marsha Norman brought to stage, The Color Purple,  October 14 – November 21. The world premiere of A Motown Christmas follows December 2-31. In 2016 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Sam Cooke Story and Driving Miss Daisy are all on the schedule.

Florida Studio Theatre
Florida Studio Theatre - The Sarasota Improv Festival runs for three nights here, July 9-11.

The seventh year of the Sarasota Improv Festival kicks off with a pre-festival gathering July 9. The festival runs July 9 – 11 at the Florida Studio Theatre on North Palm Avenue. Never Marry a Girl with Cold Feet is running now through June 7. They just solidified their summer performances, we have them all. We also put up comedy sessions at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre on Ringling Boulevard that includes the World Series of Comedy May 27-30. The full schedule for all events is on this website.

These year-round events make a great impression on those seeking homes in the Sarasota and Longboat Key area.

Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy. We have this new listing, a great corner lot on Longboat Club Road to build your dream home on the Islandside Golf Course. Return next week for a new listing at the Promenade and two residences for sale at Grand Bay.

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The Cultural Season is Upon Us

by Roger Pettingell

Local Opera, Ballet, Orchestra and Theater

The 2014-15 Season Is In Full Swing For All Cultural Tastes

Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota
Van Wezel Performing Arts Center - I show the performing arts center through my helicopter tour of Sarasota. Click on the image for the full tour.

I enjoy the arts, the culture of this area supports performance arts in an incredible way. That is why we have the opera, orchestra, pops, and ballet. For a city the size of Sarasota, that is very impressive and the local talent is top notched. November marks the time when the different cultural genres are setting up for the busy winter season.

I support the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in their performances and as a member on the board of directors. This group has an impressive schedule and just finished a run of nightly shows with their Little Shop of Horrors stage play. The entire family will enjoy Black Nativity, based on the poetry of Langston Hughes, now in it its fifth year. This production combines his poetry with Christmas and gospel music for a high-energy celebration of the nativity. I hope to see you there, I have my tickets for at least one night of the performance that begins December 3 and ends four days before Christmas.

The WBTT is celebrating its 15th season. This troupe in recent years has captured local awards for drama and has picked up national recognition for its stage plays. The theatre location at 1646 10th Way is in the heart of downtown Sarasota off Orange Avenue. Tickets for the Black Nativity production are available online or in the box office at 1343 Main Street, Suite 300B. I highly recommend the Black Nativity. January starts another round of shows, beginning with a powerful play, Knock Me a Kiss by Charles Smith, January 7 to February 8. If you like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, then the world premiere of Jazz Hot Mamas that runs February 25 to March 29 is a good show to catch. The season winds down with three tales by Zora Neale Hurston in the production of Spunk, April 15 to May 17.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Can Dance and Southeastern Guide Dogs
I discuss the upcoming 2014-15 cultural event season in this episode of REALTALK™.

The very successful Sarasota Orchestra is in full swing in Holley Hall, about six blocks away from the WBTT at 709 N Tamiami Trail. Last season, 39 performances were sold out. This season will be popular as well. The next concert and staged production is Songs of Wars I Have Seen on Thursday and Friday, already with limited availability for tickets. American Dream, Masterworks 2 and Jingle All the Way, Great Escapes 2 will only be available a few nights each in December. In Love, Masterworks 3, Voices of the Movies, Pops 1 will be at the larger venue Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in January. The orchestra returns to Holley Hall January 21 for four days with Great Escapes 3, Here, There & Everywhere. There are a number of sold out performances for the remainder of the season through May 9 with the finale, Orchestra in the Outfield. I highly recommend getting tickets early, ordering online on the Sarasota Orchestra website.

It always amazes me when I think back and know that ballet started here in 1987. That was soon after I got started in real estate here in Sarasota. Knowing that, we can justify Sarasota as voted the number one top arts destination in the nation for small cities by readers of American Style Magazine in 2012. Three big productions are scheduled for this season beginning with a two-night run of Balanchine, Tuckett & Bruce which opens Friday at the Sarasota Opera House. Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardée runs December 19 and 20 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, followed by two nights of Dance Theatre of Harlem opening on January 30 and February 1 at the FSU Center for Performing Arts. The Sarasota Orchestra accompanies the artists for the La Fille mal Gardée shows. Tickets are online through their website.

I hope you were able to catch Pagliacci at the Sarasota Opera House last week. With fewer than 1,200 seats the Sarasota Opera House downtown at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue is a thrill to visit as it is a small replica of the European opera houses. The annual Opera Gala on January 31 kicks off the 2015 opera season that runs from February 7 to March 28, with operas nearly every night. The first is a 12-show opera run, Tosca with Giacomo Puccini. Tosca runs through March 28, the last of four matinees in the run. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is performed on nine nights concluding March 27. The Golden Cockerel, with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the Paris version of Don Carlos are scheduled to fill in the week of operas during this period. Giuseppe Verdi is heralded this season in a cycle with Don Carlos, The Verdi Concert on March 22 and the Intimate Verdi on March 26. An artist’s choice concert fills in the nightly schedule on March 6. Check their website for more details or to subscribe to the entire season of opera at

There are many cultural events here in Sarasota. I list many of them from Tampa to Venice in our upcoming events page. Our neighbor to the north, Bradenton, also celebrates a fine reputation for the arts. Bradenton was voted second in the same American Style Magazine’s top arts destinations in the nation for populations of 100,000 or less. Visit and see for yourself the diversity of talent and quality of shows. When ready, please call the office at (941) 387-1840 to buy or sell property here. Below are three Longboat Key properties I listed last week.

3040 Grand Bay Blvd, #235 $899,000 Video Photo Slideshow
2016 Harbourside Dr #344/345 $895,000 Video Photo Slideshow
2071 Gulf of Mexico Dr, #T1-106 $599,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Who Lives Here and Why

by Roger C. Pettingell

Who Lives Here and Why

When prospective clients contact me to live in Longboat Key and Sarasota they generally have a good idea why they want to move here. If they vacation here first they witness the splendid sites and activities this area has to offer.

To think of great year around weather your first thought is to draw a mental picture of the beaches and the amount of sunshine that this state has to offer. Florida is a larger state than it may appear, so the complexion of each area represents a different way of life. The hustle of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the equestrian lifestyle around Ocala or the college cities of Gainesville and Tallahassee each are attractive in their own ways.

Sarasota and the six barrier islands attract a different type of resident. They are looking beyond the great beaches, golfing, restaurants, fishing and boating that other beach communities share in Florida and settle here for a more relaxing life with a home style atmosphere of luxury homes in quaint neighborhoods.

Planet Venus at sunset shines like a bright star in the southwest from any location on the Gulf of Mexico coast beaches at sunset.For the most part they have worked hard all their life to achieve their status and want to share that with others of similar backgrounds. Neighbors are friends with similar backgrounds but security and privacy is a priority they all share.

The list is impressive of those who have purchased real estate here in the Sarasota County area. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, thrill author Stephen King, professional wrestler 'Macho Man' Randy Savage, talk show king Jerry Springer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, actress Jane Lynch, sports commentator Dick Vitale, tennis coaching legend Nick Bollettieri, tennis star Martina Navratilova, TV series host Jack Perkins, R&B recording legend Donald 'Duck' Dunn, founding Moody Blues band member Graeme Edge, and our most recent addition actress Rosie O'Donnell, have all purchased property here.

It is likely that this area originated as an arts center through the contributions that famed circus promoter John and Mable Ringling brought to the area. Nearly a century later of classical arts Sarasota was voted the number one top art destination in the nation for small cities by readers of American Style Magazine. Northern neighbor Bradenton was voted number two in that same poll.

Sarasota is home to the oldest continuing orchestra and the oldest theatre company in the state. It is home to the first professional ballet and opera companies on the Gulf coast of Florida. An annual film festival for one week in April attracts visitors from around the world.

America’s favorite pastime begins each year here in Sarasota for the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in downtown Sarasota. A total of 16 teams from the National League and American League have a hefty pre-season schedule in March.

Recreation, fishing, boating and relaxation; there is more that Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands has to offer. Come to Longboat Key and Sarasota for the beaches and sunshine, stay for all that remains.

Happy Thanksgiving. It is my hope that your travels are safe and your visit with family is memorable.

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About Roger Pettingell

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.