Opera reinvigorated financially, creatively

Article courtesy of the Toledo Blade.  Original article can be found here. - Published Monday, April 16, 2012
by Sally Valongo

Suzanne Rorick likes the sound of the Toledo Opera this year -- and not just the sounds generated by fine singers and musicians in this season.

Having just wrapped up her first 365 days as executive director, Rorick reports improved finances, a revitalized board of directors, increased collaboration with area arts groups, and a revised mission for the 53-year-old performing group. The mission is called Sound Vision, and, if all goes as planned, the opera's future will be bright.

Drafted hastily in March, 2011, after the departure of Renay Conlin as general and artistic director, board upheaval, and the cancellation of the 2010-2011 season's final production, Sound Vision attempted to strike a new balance between artistic vision and actual resources -- financial and creative.

Moreover, Rorick and Loviah Aldinger, associate director, their staff, and board set out to build better bridges between artistic allies in the region and those generous people and organizations that provide funding for the opera.

"We're all in this together," noted Rorick, whose long history in business and development has taught her that one successful year is encouraging, but that keeping opera alive and well in the region requires ongoing effort and creativity.

The first milestone came in October, when the association opened its 2011-2012 season with La Traviata, in two sold-out performances that replaced the canceled spring, 2011, production. Many more lessons were learned producing this year's Gala in February.

And through April, the beloved Opera on Wheels project that takes a tantalizing taste of the art form to 20,000 elementary school students in northwest Ohio and Michigan has built momentum with dozens of performances. In June, the opera will launch a two-week opera camp in collaboration with the Valentine Theatre.

Relationships were expanded and former alliances were revived. Opera expert Kevin Bylsma rejoined the artistic staff. James Meena returned to conduct the fall opera. Stefan Sanderling stepped up for the Gala and will conduct the final production of this season, Puccini's grand work, Turandot, set to be presented in a semistaged production at 8 p.m. May 11 in the Peristyle. Mark Verzatt will direct.

Even more exciting to Rorick, Aldinger, and so many others is the announcement of the Toledo Opera's 54th season for 2012-1013. All performances will be staged in the Valentine.

The season is to open Oct. 5 and 7, with more Puccini, the composer's beloved La Boheme, fully staged, directed, and conducted by Meena. A full production of Mozart's Don Giovanni will go up Feb. 15 and 17, conducted by Sanderling. The Gala will be presented April 12 and 14.

Moreover, Opera on Wheels will take its place on the Toledo Symphony Family Concert Series in May in the Peristyle.

Tickets for Turandot are $25-$65 at 419-255-7464 or www.toledoopera.org. Tickets for the 2012-2013 season go on sale later this month.

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