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'A hub of hope': What Miami means to Florida Grand Opera's new interim director

Maria Todaro, Florida Grand Opera's new Interim General Director
Eric Joannes
Maria Todaro, Florida Grand Opera's new Interim General Director

As a preschooler, Maria Todaro benefited from some unique childcare.

"The best way for my parents to babysit me was to put me onstage," she says with a laugh.

Todaro, who was recently named Florida Grand Opera's Interim General Director, has the art form in her DNA. She was born in Paris, the daughter of Italian opera singer José Todaro and Brazilian mezzo-soprano Maria-Helena de Oliveira.

Todaro's grandmother, Helena de Oliveira, headed the International Vocal and Piano Competition of Rio de Janeiro.

"My mother was the youngest 'Carmen' in history," she says. In her parents' house, opera luminaries like legendary tenor Jon Vickers were frequent guests.

She says her mother and father instilled in her the sense that a life in the arts was more than just a career choice, but a public service. Todaro describes the opera experience as "transformative" and "healing."

"We might not be saving lives [like] doctors do, but we are in a business of transformation — specifically in this world, so much in crisis and despair right now," she says.

Todaro herself sang professionally as a mezzo-soprano before she turned her talents toward the directing and administrative side of the industry. (She met her husband, international baritone Louis Otey, when they shared a singing engagement.)

She is a citizen of the U.S., France and Italy, and has spent a significant amount of time in Brazil.

As Interim General Director of FGO, Todaro succeeds outgoing general director and CEO Susan Danis, who has held the post for the last 11 years and announced in September that she's stepping down.

Todaro says it didn't take her long to fall in love with multi-cultural Miami, which she calls "a hub of hope."

"I feel that from Miami there can be incredible ripples — finding bridges between all the different cultures and perspectives," says Todaro.

If you go:

Florida Grand Opera, 2023-2024 Season

La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

Sung in Italian with projected translations in English and Spanish.

Fort Lauderdale:
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Au-Rene Theater

  • Dec 2, 2023 at 7:30 pm

I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo

Sung in Italian with projected translations in English and Spanish.

Miami:
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Ziff Ballet Opera House

  • Jan 27, 2024 at 6:00 pm (note earlier time)
  • Jan 28, 2024 at 2:00 pm
  • Jan 30, 2024 at 8:00 pm

Fort Lauderdale:
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Au-Rene Theater

  • Feb 8, 2024 at 7:30 pm
  • Feb 10, 2024 at 7:30 pm

La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini

Sung in Italian with projected translations in English and Spanish.

Miami:
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Ziff Ballet Opera House

  • Apr 6, 2024 at 7:00 pm
  • Apr 7, 2024 at 2:00 pm
  • Apr 9, 2024 at 8:00 pm

Fort Lauderdale:
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Au-Rene Theater

  • May 2, 2024 at 7:30 pm
  • May 4, 2024 at 7:30 pm
Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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