By Rodger Skidmore
Is this our fourth year of COVID?
Sure seems like it. But then time flies when you’re having fun. And speaking of flying, wouldn’t it be fun to fly out of here and escape Sarasota’s freezing temperatures now that they’re way down in the 60s? But there are so many countries that won’t let us in, and that makes it hard to plan on where to take a vacation, or even just a quick get-away, from this, our winter of discontent. Peter Pan made his get away by jumping out of a window so he could fly to Never-Neverland — not my cup of tea. Perhaps the best place to go would be the true land of Make Believe. Yes, the opera.
But where to go? Italy is not particularly warm right now, but in make-believe Rome it is just the place to go. Something really hot is going on there starting Feb. 12 and on seven other days through March 19. Specifically, the Rome of Giacomo, Luigi, and Giuseppe — Puccini, Illica, and Giacosa — music and poetry by the experts. And yes, music and poetry are just what we need.
For some unfathomable reason, the Sarasota Opera’s first offering of 2022 actually has a plot. And there is a lot of plotting going on. An escaped prisoner is trying to evade the clutches of an evil chief of police, Scarpia (Stephen Gaertner). Scarpia uses the love that sultry-eyed Tosca (Ann Toomey) has for her lover, the painter Cavaradossi (Ben Gulley), to set a trap for two good guys, and to have his way with her. A not nice guy trying to do not nice things to a very nice girl. We know she is very nice because they named the opera after her —Tosca.
Is there a theme here? February has two operas about women (Tosca and Marie) with both operas taking place during the time of the Napoleonic wars. And both written by Italians. Well, all operas are about women, most are written by Italians, and perhaps back then writing operas took one’s mind off war. So, no themes except the musical ones. and they are lovely.
Oh, and who is Marie (played by Jessica Sandidge)? Why The “Daughter” of the Regiment? By daughter, the authors, on whose writings Donizetti’s opera is based, meant “mascot.”
So no, there was no hanky-panky going on between Marie and the French soldiers. But being quite hotsy-totsy and in love with a Tyrolean peasant, things keep happening. But no fear, everything winds up being just hunky-dory. At least from Feb. 19 to March 18, on selective days at the Sarasota Opera House. Even more info at Sarasotaopera.org.
Run away from home
Pity the residents of the Midwest and other strange places (and they know who they are), for they don’t have our land of make-believe — the opera. Nor do they have our plethora of circus companies which we can run away with. That used to be the dream of many a young person across America, when so many circuses crisscrossed our 48 states. And we don’t have to actually run away with the circus to be with the circus these days, as they not only come here every year but actually are headquartered here. How can you run away with something when the place you might go to is where you are?
The big name in the land of big tops is Circus Sarasota, and it will be having its first 2022 event at the Ulla Searing Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park from Feb. 11 through March 6 (with 32 performances). Who should go? Well, you, of course, but who else? Hate to say this old cliché, but here goes: “Children of all ages” — especially those under 17. Also, people who don’t know that they like circuses because, after attending, maybe they will. And don’t forget to invite everyone with the letters L or T in their name — they will love that you remembered them.
Big news, as Sarasota moves from February to March, it gets warmer. That’s not the news — the news is that the Searing Big Top is air conditioned. Good to know now, and good to know during some summer attractions.
And what will you see? Tons of razzle, and an almost equal amount of dazzle — or maybe the other way around — as there is certainly going to be a lot of razzle dazzle. There will be artists standing on things (at way too high a height), and then jumping up and down. Or riding something while way up there. Or letting go of something while moving up there and being caught (perhaps) by someone else. Artists tossing things at each other or climbing up on each other (wow, that high?).
And, everyone will be wearing different-colored costumes, all covered in glitter. So much glitter that your eyes will sparkle.
And, get this, they will be playing circus music. During intermission people called vendors will try to sell you some pink fluffy stuff. Don’t get it in your hair, it is supposed to go into your mouth. And then, magically, it disappears. All that will be left will be memories that you may keep forever. More info at circusarts.org.
Two for one
Go to Sarasota’s Bayfront Park in February to attend the Embracing Our Differences exhibition and you may go again, at no cost, in March and/or April. Or, if you wish, attend every day from now until April 10 because admission is free.
For the last year (soon to be two), quite a few of us have been living internally, within our own minds. Some say that that is not exactly a good thing for us to do. And streaming another series that some algorithm has decided will give us just the same amount of pleasure as the last one we watched isn’t good for us either.
What is good is getting out and about. Outside of our homes and outside of ourselves — into our world.
Yes, that big, funny, strange, terrifying, friendly (if we let it be) world is ours. Ours, if we wish to claim it, alongside all of our many, many brothers and sisters. Hope, friendship, love, caring and sharing.
Yes, all of that, coupled with a walk in the fresh air, with friends, family, and wonderful thoughts. Just what we need right now. More info at embracingourdifferences.org.