In 1960 the group, then called Asolo Opera Guild was formed to present the touring Turnau Opera in chamber-sized productions in the historic 320 seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. In 1973 the company began mounting its own productions. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater in downtown Sarasota in 1979. Renovations began in 1982 and the theater, now on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 1984 as the Sarasota Opera House, the company it housed now being called Sarasota Opera.
Pearl FishersSince 1983 the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi. Since then the company has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as The Verdi Cycle producing the complete works of Giuseppe Verdi. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice Artist and Studio Artist programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its performances for local schools and the unique Sarasota Youth Opera program, currently the most comprehensive youth opera program in the nation.
The Sarasota Opera House completed a $20 million dollar historic renovation and restoration in 2008. The project was designed to restore the historic 1926 theater to its original glory, while creating a venue for opera for the 21st century. Decorative details have been restored, seating has been replaced, and the orchestra pit almost doubled in size to accommodate operas that require larger orchestras. Backstage systems have been updated and public areas and amenities expanded and enhanced.