Sarasota Opera House
The Sarasota Opera House (originally the Edwards Theatre) is an historic theater, now opera house, located at 61 North Pineapple Avenue in Sarasota, Florida. The vision of a local man, A. B. Edwards, it originally opened on April 10, 1926 with an elaborate three-story entrance containing shops and apartments, while the theater's auditorium contained an orchestral pipe organ. Today, the theater is owned by and is the home of the Sarasota Opera and it seats 1,119. In the 1920s, it quickly became a popular entertainment venue with major performers of the day, such as Will Rogers (in 1927) and the Ziegfeld Follies (1928), and Elvis Presley (1956), appearing there. Also, it became a movie theater when it presented the world premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth (which had been filmed in Sarasota) attended by its stars Charlton Heston and Dorothy Lamour. Over the years, managements changed as did the name of the theater: in December 1936 it became "The Florida Theater" while, in the same year, a hurricane damaged the Robert-Morton pipe organ. Various attempts to modernize removed most of its original Art Deco. It became a full-time movie theater, but, finally, in 1973, it closed. However, opera was beginning to be presented in Sarasota by a non-profit organization, the Asolo Opera Guild, which presented small-scale operas from out of town in the 320-seat Asolo Theater. By 1974, they had begun to produce their own operas. In 1979, the Guild bought the old Edwards Theater for $150,000. Needing major renovations to restore the house and to accommodate the demands of opera, the Association began renovations in 1982, the result of which was that the new Sarasota Opera House appeared on the National Register of Historic Places in March, 1984. The Sarasota Opera has established a firm reputation within the U.S. and presents a major 4-opera season each year between February and April. Further renovations between the end of the 2007 season and the 1 March 2008 opening of the 2008 season have led to a significantly-enhanced opera theater. The $20 million renovations included gutting the auditorium, which resulted in a newly configured seating plan, expansion of the public areas and Opera Club on the second level, the opening up of the 3-story atrium to expose a newly installed skylight system which had existed in the 1926 building, but which had been covered by a ceiling and a chandelier used in the film, Gone with the Wind . In 2008, the Sarasota Opera reopened with Verdi's Rigoletto . Seating was expanded to approximately 1,200. After the 2009-2010 season, some seats along the far sides were taken out and replaced with aisles on either end of the theater leaving 1,119 seats. In 2009, the company staged seven performances of Verdi's Don Carlos in the four-act version of 1883 (the "La Scala" version), performed in French as Verdi conceived and wrote it. This was the largest opera ever performed at the opera house.