Bob Heuer and Florida Grand Opera
For 71 years the Florida Grand Opera (FGO) has brought the power and strength of music and the human voice to South Florida’s cultural community. At the helm of this prestigious company is general director and CEO, Bob Heuer.
Since joining FGO 34 years ago, Heuer has guided the company to become, in many ways, the envy of opera companies in the US and around the world. With the triumph of delivering to Miami a world-class opera house at the Arsht Center and the development of FGO’s Young Artists Studio, Heuer’s visionary leadership has set the stage for an exciting future for the area’s longest-running performing arts company.
“To think of what has grown here in the past 30 years,” said Heuer. “There is not another city in the US that has had this kind of explosion in the arts, although we all seem to have a little inferiority complex. It’s as though we need outsiders to tell us how wonderful we are in order to truly believe it.”
Heuer attributes our growth to the international influx of people to Miami and the emergence of a cultural core in our city’s center, grounded by the Arsht Center, which is soon to be joined downtown by MAM and the Miami Science Museum. He sees Miami evolving in the direction of many other international cities where the cultural activities are centered, creating a great vibrancy, and he envisions FGO becoming an even greater component of Miami’s cultural core.
The company is currently located in Doral, yet owns the piece of land directly to the north of the Arsht Center, which was acquired in 1994. Heuer’s plan is to bring FGO to that location through the construction of a new building that would house all of FGO’s administration and rehearsal space, as well as house a smaller theater that would be ideal for artist training and small-scale productions.
“If we were downtown every day,” he explains, “then the artists from the opera would be here in the neighborhood and it would create a synergy where our artists would feed off of other artists and they would begin to find ways of working together. When you’re spread out, it does not quite work that way.”
Of course, building new facilities is no easy task. Money must be raised. The company has raised roughly $4 million of the required $30 million.
In the meantime, Heuer and FGO are concentrating on tasks that they can control, like staging current productions Don Giovanni and Cyrano, and bringing international productions to Miami like Luisa Fernanda, a show that falls into the Spanish musical theater category known as zarzuela, which incorporates both spoken dialogue and singing. The entire physical production of Luisa Fernanda is being brought to Miami from Madrid.
The ability to import international productions, not to mention the capacity to run multiple productions at one time on the same stage, is achieved because of the opera house at the Arsht Center, the opening of which Heuer attributes as the number one triumph during his tenure as general director.
Another triumph for FGO that is near and dear to Heuer’s heart is the success of the company’s Young Artists Studio.
“Opera needed a core group of artists who are here throughout the year,” he said, “who can sing in the productions, but also do educational and outreach programs, and be ambassadors for the opera in the community.”
The Young Artists Studio achieves these objectives and also serves as a bridge from the university to professional level. Singers often finish college and have no experience on the stage.
Additionally, when the program began, there were fewer and fewer stars in the opera, so the need to create local stars became an objective. Local soprano Elizabeth Caballero, whose career with FGO began in the box office, is now a star of the company and was trained in Heuer’s Young Artists Studio.
Visionary leadership – a recurring theme in Miami’s cultural growth. We’ve seen it with so many who have committed themselves to this community long before it was sexy and glamorous to do so. Bob Heuer is one of these leaders, a pillar in Miami’s arts community.
Aaron Glickman is a writer, actor and filmmaker. Through his contributions to SocialMiami, he has had opportunities to document many fascinating people and organizations in the fields of philanthropy, the arts, fashion, design and real estate including Carolina Herrera, James Rosenquist, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Russell Simmons, Nicole Miller, Christian Louboutin, Lin Arison and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Miami Theater Center (MTC) and is on the Executive Committee of the National YoungArts Foundation.