Susan Danis, who begins her first full season as general director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera, is well regarded for her knowledge of opera, but also for her ability to invigorate audiences. During a seven-year period in her tenure at the helm of the Sarasota Opera, individual donations grew by more than 200 percent, according to FGO, and a capital campaign raised more than $47 million.
Danis will open the 2013-14 season provocatively with a rare performance of the saucy “Mourning Becomes Electra,” making FGO only the fifth opera company to attempt the work. Playing it safe with “La Boheme” is not how she wants to make her mark.
“I’ve talked to a lot of patrons who have told me, ‘I really don’t need to see X, Y or Z opera again,’” says Danis, 52. “These people are an important part of our audience, too. You’ll never understand new music if you never hear it.”
“Mourning,” an opera by Fort Lauderdale’s Marvin David Levy filled with sex, betrayal and murder, is a challenge, Danis admits. But, she says, “People who have seen it say it was probably one of the five most-powerful nights in the theater they’ve ever experienced.”
And it may not be the most provocative piece FGO produces this season. “No Exit at Nowhere” is an operatic exploration of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist play by Boston-based rabble-rouser Andy Vores, which will run Feb. 27-March 1 in a South Beach nightclub, Nowhere Lounge. The piece portrays three people who die and find themselves stuck together in a room in hell for, oh, the next 30,000 years.
“I want to do as much as I can to put opera in places where people aren’t expecting it,” Danis says. “Anything to break down the darn opera stereotypes, all the ladies with horns, screaming.”