Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts are hard to come by, and getting harder all the time, so it’s especially encouraging that Sarasota Opera has landed a $20,000 NEA grant.
The grant, which the opera announced Wednesday, is from the NEA Art Works program. The money will help Sarasota Opera pay for the world premiere of “Rootabaga Country” by composer Rachel J. Peters. The new work will be a production of the Sarasota Youth Opera.
Last year, the opera chose Peters to create a new work after a national search. She has written for musical theater and opera, and area audiences may remember her work in the Asolo Repetory Theatre adaptation of Euripedes’ “The Bacchae” in 2007, which featured an original score by Peters.
“Rootabaga Country” is an adaptation of selections from Carl Sandburg’s 1922 book “Rootabaga Stories,” a collection of whimsical short stories created out of Sandburg’s desire to invent “American fairy tales.” In her opera, Peters introduces the audience to three characters, Gimme the Ax and his two children, Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions. They have sold their possessions as they prepare to travel to Rootabaga Country, a land in the sky. Alelia, the children’s mother who loved to visit Rootabaga Country as a young girl, had long ago disappeared, so the journey is the family’s way of reconnecting with her.
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“Rootabaga Country” is an adaptation of selections from Carl Sandburg’s 1922 book “Rootabaga Stories.”
It is scheduled to premiere in November. It will be the sixth world premiere that the Sarasota Youth Opera has staged. The most recent was “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” with music by Daron Hagen and a libretto by J.D. McClatchy, in 2012.
The Sarasita opera is at least the third local organizations to land NEA grants this year. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe received a $10,000 Arts Work award to help underwrite its 2018 production of “The Mountaintop,” a fictional account of the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. And the Sarasota Orchestra got a $10,000 grant to help support its Sarasota Music Festival, a prestigious event than brings some of the best young musicians in the world to Sarasota for a three-week residency during which they study and perform with elite professionals.
Speaking of opera
If you find that Sarasota Opera doesn’t completely sate your opera appetite, you might want to check out Opera Tampa, which performs at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Its recently announced 2018 season includes a Figaro double bill: Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” on Feb. 2 and 4 and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” on March 2 and 4. The season concludes with Verdi’s “Macbeth” from April 13-15. Call 813-229-7827 or go to operatampa.org for more details.
It was supposed to open in 2016, but now, halfway through 2017, the Manatee Performing Arts Center parking lot is finally completed. It’s directly across Third Avenue West from the center, which should make a lot of people happy. Until now, parking for shows at the center pretty much meant either walking a bit, taking a shuttle or paying the valet. The parking lot should have more than enough room for virtually anything that’s going on at the center. A lighted cross walk will help ensure the safety of patrons crossing the street. Valet parking will still be available at least for the time being. Parking at the lot is free. There are other events going on at MPAC, and the Manatee Players season gets underway Aug. 10 with Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.”