Florentine Opera Company

The Florentine Opera Company is Wisconsin’s oldest fully professional performing arts organization and the sixth-oldest opera company in the United States.

The company presents three operatic productions per season at the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition, the Florentine presents its @ THE CENTER series at the Wayne and Kristine Lueders Florentine Opera Center in Milwaukee Riverwest Neighborhood. Additional venues including the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center will feature performances by the Florentine in 2015.

The Florentine Opera was founded in 1933 by John-David Anello. At that time, the group was called the Italian Opera Chorus, and it met at the Jackson Street Social Center. In 1942, the group became The Florentine Opera Chorus, remaining under the direction of John D. Anello. He explained that the change in name “was to honor the birthplace of opera as we know it. The craft originated in the Italian city of Florence, which has been known as a bustling center for the arts for many centuries.” By this time, the chorus had grown to a group of 100 members of many nationalities, with a waiting list of over 100 more. In the program of the first “Opera Album” after the name change is written the Florentine Opera Chorus motto: “If our song has stopped one heart from aching, we have not lived in vain.” In 1950, the Florentine Opera Chorus extended its efforts from operatic choral performances to the production of complete operas and the company became a private venture, changing its name one final time to the Florentine Opera Company. Over the past decade, the Florentine Opera has premiered several new American operas. It produced the American premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s opera The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1999. In 2009, the Florentine presented Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein’s Elmer Gantry (with a two-time 2012 Grammy Award-winning professional recording). A world premiere (with a 2013 Grammy Award-winning professional recording) of Don Davis’ Spanish language Rio de Sangre opened in 2010.
William Florescu has been General Director since 2005. Joseph Rescigno is the Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor, having served since 1981. Scott S. Stewart has acted as the Chorus Master and Associate Conductor since 1978. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra serves as the orchestra in performances by the Florentine Opera.

Florentine Opera Company Reviews:

“This recorded première may finally set the operatic record straight regarding Wuthering Heights, particularly with a cast as good as this one. Audio values are tops and I doubt that we will get a better recording of this neglected masterpiece any time soon. Highly recommended!” —Lawrence Devoe, TheaterByte

“It would be hard to imagine a more committed and much better sung performance than that given here by the Florentine Opera Company, one that has the imprimatur of the composer. The casting of the principal roles is very strong and led by the the soprano Georgia Jarman as Cathy and the baritone Kelly Markgraf as Heathcliff. Jarman’s gleaming soprano has the power to ride over the orchestra when required, but she can also sing with great tenderness and her impassioned portrayal of the opera’s tragic heroine is wonderfully expressive throughout. Kelly Markgraf is a commanding and virile sounding Heathcliff whose rhapsodic account of “Was there ever another place in all the world like this!” (Act 1 Scene1) makes him the epitome of the romantic hero. The singers of the supporting roles generally don’t disappoint, with Susanne Mentzer (Nelly) and Heather Buck (Isabella) worthy of special mention. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, firmly directed by Joseph Mechavich, does full justice to Floyd’s dramatic score with responsive and vibrant playing sumptuously recorded.” —Graham Williams, HR Audio