Pensacola Opera Hits High Notes for 35th Anniversary Season

Big City Opera with Small Town Charm

Written by Morgan Cole

The Pensacola Opera’s 35th mainstage season productions at the Saenger Theater are certainly its crown jewels, but a passion for community outreach makes this company shine all year round. From performances at local schools and libraries, to free pop-up performances on our downtown streets, and black-tie fundraising galas, the opera has is surely played an important role in the cultural enrichment of Northwest Florida.

“It is essential that children — and their parents — have untethered, free access to programs that exemplify art and the artistic experience,” Executive Director Jerome Shannon said. “For us, it is music — and primarily, vocal music. The power of musical storytelling through singing is an important part of our nation’s culture.”

That enthusiasm for what has been called the ultimate art form — that perfect blend of music, dance, and drama — has been central to Pensacola Opera since its founding in 1983.

“We are celebrating our 35th year,” said Shannon, who also serves as the musical director and principal conductor. “When art organizations around our country are closing or retreating, our company continues to flourish. We’re very excited and proud about that.”

The opera kicked-off its 35th season with a special performance of Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera, Maria de Buenos Aires, at the Pensacola State College Ashmore Auditorium as part of Pensacola’s annual Foo Foo Festival in November.

“Pensacola Opera was proud to participate in Foo Foo Festival again this year and collaborate with Ballet Pensacola to present the seductive tango opera, María de Buenos Aires. With singing by our Artists in Residence, musicians from the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, and Richard Steinert’s choreography created especially for his Ballet Pensacola company, this Foo Foo Festival event was surely one to be remembered,” said Shannon.

The opera’s 35th season is something of a bittersweet milestone because it marks the final season of longtime artistic director Kyle Marrero, who has been with the company for 17 years. Formerly a faculty and administration member at the University of West Florida, Marrero now serves as president of the University of West Georgia.

“He and his wife, Jane, a professional opera singer who has sung many roles with our company, have made immeasurable contributions to our company and our community,” said Shannon.

Marrero will take a final bow, as Pensacola Opera hits the high notes for its 35th mainstage season productions of Madama Butterfly on January 26 and 28, 2018, and Man of La Mancha on March 16 and 18, 2018 at the historic Pensacola Saenger Theatre located in downtown Pensacola.

“We are thrilled to welcome back to the Saenger stage a cast of beloved Pensacola veterans: Elizabeth Caballero, last heard as Violetta in La Traviata, portraying Cio-Cio San; John Riesen and Gillian Lynn Carter, two of last season’s Artists in Residence, portraying Pinkerton and Suzuki respectively; and Adelmo Guidarelli, last heard as Ramfis in Aïda, portraying Sharpless. A true all-star cast that will be sure to blow you away,” Shannon said.

On an annual basis, the opera’s calendar is packed – with the artists-in-residence arriving in September and starting school performances, Foo Foo Festival performances in November, downtown holiday caroling in December, mainstage productions and community performances through spring, the annual Operazzi Ball fundraiser in April, to Family “OperaTunity” Day in May! The season ends with National auditions and summer Opera Camps, held in June and July. Pensacola Opera also hosts a series of pop-up events and performances throughout Northwest Florida spreading the art of opera to all, so be on the look-out!

“It is essential that children — and their parents — have untethered, free access to programs that exemplify art and the artistic experience,” Shannon says.  “For us, it is music — and primarily, vocal music. The power of musical storytelling through singing is an important part of our nation’s culture.”

Pensacola Opera is located at 75 South Tarragona Street in downtown Pensacola. For tickets and information on Pensacola Opera’s upcoming season events, visit pensacolaopera.com or call (850) 433-6737.