Life after Verdi: Opera gives DeRenzi 10 more years
It will take another two seasons for the Sarasota Opera to complete its Verdi cycle, Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi's commitment to performing every note ever written by the renowned Italian composer. But if you thought the conclusion of that project, which began in 1989, meant DeRenzi's work here was done, think again.
At its annual meeting this week, the opera board announced it has signed DeRenzi to a new 10-year contract as artistic director and principal conductor, and the 65-year-old said there is much that remains on his agenda after the final notes of Verdi's work are sung.
"There is a lot more opera beyond Verdi," said DeRenzi. "There are a lot of operas I've been wanting to do over the years that, because of our commitment to the Verdi cycle, we have not been able to do. We will continue to do repertory you can't see other places and that is of interest to the opera world outside of Sarasota."
Neither does DeRenzi, who is heading into his 33rd season with the company, assume this will be his final contract with the organization.
"Conductors can conduct for a long time, often as long as they're alive," he said. "I certainly don't necessarily see this contract as the end of my time with the Sarasota Opera."
DeRenzi said he is pleased he will be able to participate in long range plans for fundraising, outreach and the opera house facility itself, though he did not offer specifics.
Richard Russell, who replaced Susan Danis as executive director two seasons ago and served as the company's marketing director from 2005 to 2010, simultaneously accepted a new seven-year contract.
"I'm obviously delighted," Russell said. "I feel a strong connection with this company and I'm glad I'll be around for awhile to help with its future."
While the opera did not see the growth in ticket sales experienced by many local performing arts organizations this year and fell just short of its sales goal for the season, it finished the fiscal year with a surplus of nearly $200,000. This was mostly due, Russell said, to a large increase in small donors, a promising sign for an organization that has relied heavily in the past on fewer, very wealthy patrons.
"What's very encouraging for us is that we saw a huge increase in our lower end donors, in numbers and dollars," Russell said. "That growth in that part of our donor base means new people are coming in, which says to me there is great potential for the future."
Under Development Director Stacy Ridenour, who joined the company a little less than a year ago, the organization exceeded its projected development income by $680,000.
The annual meeting, held at the opera house, concluded with Donald Worthington passing the gavel to the newly elected chairman of the board, David Chaifetz.