Off-Campus Field Trip

Provider: Sarasota Opera

Contact: Ben Jewell-Plocher

Starting cost per student: $0

Additional Info: Schools must provide their own transportation

Max. Capacity: 30

Transportation Needed?  Yes

Who Arranges Transportation? School

Is Financial Assistance Offered?  No


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When attending an opera, the singers onstage and musicians in the pit are the most visible professionals, but did you know it takes over 100 individuals in varying departments to bring a production to life at the Sarasota Opera House?

As part of this exploration with the Sarasota Opera, students will be provided with an interactive tour highlighting the history of the Opera House, it’s connection to Sarasota, and careers in the arts. Tours include visits to the scenic, costume, and prop shops as well as Q&A sessions with professional artists and staff.

Students Will

  • Explore connections to social studies, visual arts, and theatre arts, and music
  • Learn about the many careers within the arts, both on and off the stage, over the course of a behind-the-scenes tour of a professional opera company
  • Identify the duties of some of the backstage careers at the Opera House
  • Examine the history of the Sarasota Opera House
  • Gain an understanding of the economic and civic importance of the arts in the Sarasota

Additional Details


Aug, Sept, Dec, April, and May

Group Sizes:
Max of 30 per group

Grade Levels:
Grades six and up

Groups are welcome to bring sack lunches and eat in the Opera House courtyard (schedule-permitting; please check in advance).

Transportation Cost:
Transportation must be arranged and paid for by the school. Need transportation funding? Check out the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Exploration Grants.

To Schedule a Tour:
Contact Ben Jewell-Plocher at or 941-328-1307

Opera House History

Looking for opportunities to promote the real estate market in Sarasota A(rthur) B(ritton) Edwards, Sarasota’s first mayor, prominent entrepreneur, and real estate investor, decided that downtown needed an attraction, signaling to the world that the city was a destination. The Edwards Theatre, opened in April 1926 would serve the community as a place of entertainment, community resource and finally as an opera house over the next nine decades. Approaching its 91st year in 2017.

The opening night in 1926 was accorded great fanfare in the local press. The performance included a live band, dancers, and an opera singer (Mr. Edwards’ daughter). As a mixed-use venue, it also included the silent movie “Skinner’s Dress Suit” accompanied by the Robert Morton orchestral organ. Later bill of fare included Will Rogers, the Ziegfeld Follies, the exotic fan dancer Sally Rand, and touring opera companies. A hurricane in 1929 destroyed the organ and required renovations to the lobby, but performances continued.

Mr. Edwards sold the venue to the Sparks movie theater chain, which renamed it the Florida Theater. Movies became more prominent in future years, especially in 1952 when Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, largely filmed in Sarasota, had its world premiere, with many of the stars including Charlton Heston and Mr. DeMille in attendance. Live performances in those years included a young Elvis Presley in 1956 (with a top ticket price of $1.50).

The years took its toll on the Florida Theater and in 1972 it stopped showing films. The front part of the building continued to house offices and a radio school, but in 1979, a new future was destined for the building.

The Asolo Opera Guild, founded in 1960 to support opera performances at the Asolo Theatre on the grounds of the Ringling Museum, needed a new home and arranged to purchase the Florida Theater for $150,000. Over the next few years the Guild undertook to renovate the building as it raised funds and in 1984 it was ready to reopen as the Sarasota Opera House.

After a subsequent renovation in 2008, with much of its original beauty restored and enhanced, the Sarasota Opera House was called “one of the finest venues for opera in America” by Musical America. It seats 1,129 and the orchestra pit accommodates over 75 players. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, received the Florida Preservation Award in 2010, and helped spurred the revival of downtown Sarasota.


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