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I Was Part of the Verdi Cycle


Richard Russell


I’m very proud to have been part of the Verdi Cycle from the beginning. I’m happy to have sung in the first three productions: RigolettoAroldo and Un ballo in maschera, and I’ve seen almost every other opera in the cycle (I missed Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, Ernani, Le Trouvere and the original version of Forza). Back in 1989 when we were doing that first production of Rigoletto, I don’t think anyone thought that a quarter of century later, we would be nearing the completion of the entire oeuvre. 


However with the production of Aroldo, the following year, we had a glimpse of what potential existed. Very few of us in the company knew the work before that, and I am sure that even fewer in the audience had even heard of it. But at the first performance, towards the end of Act I, after a really wonderful ensemble, as only Verdi could write, the audience erupted in the kind of applause and appreciation that we’d never yet heard from a normally restrained Sarasota Opera audience. The clapping and bravos were enthusiastic and thrilled all of us on the stage.


It was at that moment, I suspect, that Maestro DeRenzi first conceived that Sarasota Opera audiences would respond, not just to the famous and popular works like Rigoletto and La traviata, but to the rare ones too. And the seed was planted that maybe…just maybe…


Twenty-five years later I’m still surprised. After Un giorno di regno last season, more than a few patrons told me what a great piece it was, and asked why it wasn’t done more often. My response: that’s the genius of Verdi and the magic of Sarasota Opera.


(Richard Russell is Executive Director of Sarasota Opera)


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