Now in it’s third year, Sarasota Opera’s summer series HD at the Opera House keeps getting bigger and better. Kicking off with a 2014 season comprising nine operas screened scattershot across the off-season, the program this year has expanded to 21 shows on a regular Sunday schedule from May to October, incorporating select ballet and Shakespeare performances from around the world alongside acclaimed international opera, including a re-mastered version of the 1967 production of Verdi’s Requiem starring a young Luciano Pavarotti. The stage may be dark, but the house is packed and state-of the-art projectors are all the light these performers need.

Richard Strauss'

BORIS GODUNOV FROM THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE.

First launched as a means to expand Sarasota’s opera audience, the program far exceeded Sarasota Opera Executive Director Richard Russell’s expectations, signaling opportunity for growth. “One of the challenges in developing new audiences is that we’re not doing things year-round,” says Russell. “This highlights us and makes people aware of what we’re doing.” And while the second season encountered challenges acquiring desired programming, this year Russell was impressed by the wide variety available for him to bring to Sarasota audiences. “Some we would never do in our theater because of the size,” he says. And that’s the primary strength of a series such as HD at the Opera House—bringing  the world of performance to Sarasota when it would otherwise be impossible or at least impossibly costly. Not one of the screenings this season originates from the United States, with the nearest coming from the Stratford Festival in Ontario. Instead, audiences will be transported to the stages of the Opera de Paris, the Salzburg Festival, the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera Ballet and both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet in London, not to mention the latest from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. “This gives us the opportunity to expose our audience to things they wouldn’t have a chance to see otherwise,” says Russell.

Richard Strauss'

JULES MASSENET'S "WERTHER" FROM THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE.

But true blue opera fans needn’t worry about the newfangled projectors now populating the stately confines of the Sarasota Opera House ever replacing the real thing. “This is a complement,” says Russell. “As interesting as this content is, it doesn’t replace the live experience. Our job will always be to do live performance.” 

Photos courtesy of the Sarasota Opera House.