Virginia Opera Association, Inc.
Richmond CenterStage
P.O. Box 784
Richmond VA 23218-0784
Mission Statement

The vision of Virginia Opera is strengthening our cultural communities through the beauty, power and passion of opera. The mission of Virginia Opera is to attract, educate, develop and engage a diverse base of audiences, volunteers and professionals through the promotion and production of quality opera performances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Web and Social Media
Multi-Media Comments
Of the 2014-15 Performance Season, the critics said it best:
"For its fortieth anniversary, Virginia Opera slid into Broadway repertoire to deliver a highly satisfying account of Stephen Sondheim's ever-chilling Sweeney Todd, one of the organization's strongest ventures of the past decade..." -Opera News
"No wonder Sweeney Todd is becoming a staple in opera houses around the world...So much is going on for Virginia Opera's Sweeney Todd vocally, instrumentally and acting-wise..." -The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Virginia Opera gave a clever and reverently detailed production...all drew appreciative laughter as part of a fun, loving reproduction of the opera (HMS Pinafore)." -The Washington Post
Virginia Opera's cinematic production of Strauss's Salome was a passionate tour de force that etched love and death in vivid bas-relief..." -The Washington Post
"...this La Traviata excels as a traditional take on the opera that is tellingly directed, arrestingly designed and sung and acted exceedingly well." -The Richmond Times-Dispatch
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Russell P. Allen
Board Chair Dr. Elisabeth Muhlenfeld
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired President, Sweetbriar College
Contact Information
Address Richmond CenterStage
P.O. Box 784
Richmond, VA 232180784
Telephone 804 644-8168 3398
Fax 804 644-0415
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1975
Financial Summary
Projected Revenue $5,459,076.00
Projected Expenses $5,271,917.00

The vision of Virginia Opera is strengthening our cultural communities through the beauty, power and passion of opera. The mission of Virginia Opera is to attract, educate, develop and engage a diverse base of audiences, volunteers and professionals through the promotion and production of quality opera performances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


In 2014-15, in addition to its mainstage activities, Virginia Opera delivered 256 education and outreach programs reaching nearly 120,000 people in more than 120 schools and community regions in 38 regions throughout the State. By offering performances at multiple statewide venues, the company is able to spread the fixed cost required to mount each production thus making the Company one of the lowest cost producers of opera in the United States (when compared to similar-sized companies performing in comparable venues).

Last season the Company celebrated its fortieth anniversary producing thirty-three statewide performances of four mainstage productions, all receiving critical acclaim.

Goals for this and the coming seasons are: 1.) Sustain, attract and develop a diverse audience through the creation of quality programming that educates, inspires and entertains; 2.) Increase total financial support to achieve the mission; 3.) Opera in an effective and efficient manner to ensure long-term viability; 4.) Attract and develop the human resources necessary to support our mission.


The most pressing needs of the Company as they relate to the current goals include:
  1. Sustain the artistic quality of our programming and improve the variety of artistic offerings;
  2. Continue to attract, enhance and broaden the diversity of our audience, board, and volunteers;
  3. Focus in-school touring on our major market areas;
  4. Increase total earned revenue;
  5. Increase total recurring contributed income; and
  6. Expand staff resources.

Virginia Opera is known and respected nationwide for the identification and presentation of the finest performing artists, for the musical and dramatic integrity of its productions, and for the ingenuity and variety of its education and outreach programs. The company has a working budget of approximately $5.2 million with mainstage performances in multiple markets reaching over 50,000 attendees.

In March of 1994, by unanimous vote of the Virginia General Assembly, Virginia Opera was named "The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia" in recognition of the organization's contribution to the Commonwealth, and to the world of opera.

Organized in 1974 by founding president Edythe C. Harrison, Virginia Opera was launched with two productions in the Norfolk Center Theater, and has since expanded to four productions including 20 performances at the Edythe C. and Stanley L. Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, eight at the Landmark Theater in Richmond, and eight at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax. Virginia Opera's history in Richmond began in 1977 with the encouragement of then-Governor Mills Godwin and Mrs. T. Fleetwood (Anna) Garner, under whose leadership The Richmond Friends of Opera was formed to present Virginia Opera productions annually in Richmond.

By 1983, the Richmond and Central Virginia Board of Virginia Opera was formed and a Richmond office was opened. In November 1992, the company presented its first mainstage performance at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax. This development was hailed as "one of the major local operatic events of the year" by The Washington Post; and deemed "a special day in music history for the Washington, D.C. area," by Opera News.

Virginia Opera is one of the finest regional opera companies in the nation and is the only company to perform regularly in three separate mainstage venues. In addition, Virginia Opera reaches more than 120,000 students and community members each year through its impressive variety of innovative Education and Community Outreach programs.

CEO Statement

Opening the season in September 2016 will be a rare double-bill of the Virginia Opera premiere of Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins paired with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s compelling short opera Pagliacci, both brilliant tales with overlapping themes of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.  Seven Deadly Sins, a remarkable fusion of opera, dance and theatre, when presented with the classic play-within-a play, Pagliacci, will present a unique pairing designed to introduce new audiences to the work of Kurt Weill.  The Seven Deadly Sins continues the Opera’s popular First of Firsts Series, established in 2011, offering audiences a new or classic work never before seen on a Virginia Opera stage.  This production is particularly timely because Adam Turner, the company’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, was named in September 2015 as the Inaugural Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow. This new Kurt Weill Foundation fellowship program was established to honor the legacy of conductor Julius Rudel.  Virginia Opera President and CEO Russell Allen commented, “The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music is one of the most prestigious advocates of contemporary operatic repertory, with a focus on the music of Kurt Weill, and Julius Rudel was one of Weill’s staunchest proponents.  With Weill’s music now so embedded in standard operatic repertory in America, it is time for Virginia Opera to explore his oeuvre.  To be able to do so, with a conductor bearing the title of Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow, is an exciting opportunity for our company.  It is also wonderful to have the outside world acknowledge the Opera’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor with such an impressive honor.”  In November, the Opera will introduce a new production of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, in an updated version of the classic opera buffa and directed by renowned Michael Shell and featuring acclaimed singer and Governor’s School for the Arts alumni Will Liverman in the title role. In January 2017, Virginia Opera debuts the most acclaimed of Weber’s operas, Der Freischütz or The Magic Marksman. Compelling and romantic, Der Freischütz is a staple of the European repertory, yet has made few appearances in American opera houses. The Opera anticipates significant national “buzz” in its unveiling, bringing increased attention to the Company and its multiple performance regions. The season concludes with an audience favorite, Giacomo Puccini’s breathtaking Turandot, following a 13-year absence from the Virginia Opera repertory and the second installment in the Opera’s multi-year Puccini Cycle. Veteran director Lillian Groag and internationally renowned conductor John DeMain, who successfully teamed to create the Opera’s 2011 popular production of Aida, lead this production.  In 2016-2017, specific in-school touring opportunities for Grades K-5 are currently under development, but will be similar to those tours produced this season – two world-premiere productions commissioned by author and lecturer Dr. Glenn Winters: A Trickster Trilogy, created from three international trickster tales including Mark Twains' famous mischief maker Tom Sawyer, developed for Grades K-5, and Deep River: Marian Anderson’s Journey, depicting Anderson's rise to fame among the world's greatest concert artists, designed for Grades 4 - 12. 

Board Chair Statement
What a year it has been.  We have hosted a who's-who of remarkable talents from the musical and dramatic worlds; successfully raised over a million dollars in new funding for our company; and set in motion an artistic blueprint for future seasons, including our "First of Firsts" series, new productions of works never before seen on our stages, and our "Made in America" series of contemporary works by American composers.  No wonder we have taken to calling ourselves the "New" Virginia Opera!  It's a fair question to ask how we can do all of this at a time when so many arts and cultural institutions are struggling for survival against a backdrop of economic dislocation, diminished corporate and governmental support and a tentative marketplace.  The answer to that question, however, is simple:  it is staring at you from the nearest mirror.  We have had the courage and vision to forge this new path precisely because we have the continuing support of the individuals, businesses, foundations and governments that comprise the communities we serve.  That support begins with subscriptions, which give us the financial lifeblood upon which to plan seasons, commit to world-class singers, conductors and directors, and present works that are not tired warhorses making a repeat performance.  The next level of vital support comes in the form of contributions, which fund more than half of the costs of bringing this extraordinary art to Virginia and the world beyond.  And the final level of support comes from hundreds of volunteers, who teach, lead, take tickets, give tours, feed, house and a hundred other tasks that otherwise would cost us a fortune to procure.  As we close this season, I ask you to take stock of what you can do to keep Virginia Opera thriving.  Subscribe...contribute...give of your time.  We can't do this without you, and when you give in these ways, you make us a better, and sounder, institution.
Alan D. Albert, Chairman
Statewide Board of Directors
Areas of Service
Areas Served
Metro Richmond
Richmond, City
Virginia Opera produces/performs at mainstage venues throughout the Commonwealth including but not limited to: The Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage in Richmond, and at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax, VA.  Offices are maintained in both Norfolk and Richmond.  Education and outreach program activities are conducted at venues statewide.
Board Chair
Board Chair Dr. Elisabeth Muhlenfeld
Company Affiliation Retired President, Sweetbriar College
Term July 2015 to June 2017
Board of Directors
Board Members
Ms. Mary Virginia Andraos Attorney, Bown, Champlin, Foreman & Rockecharlie
Ms. Jeannie P. Baliles Community Volunteer
Mrs. Elizabeth M. Bredrup Community Volunteer
Mr. Langdon Taylor Christian IVCommunity Volunteer
Mrs. Josee Covington Covington International Travel
Mr. Ammon G. Dunton Jr.Attorney
Ms. Sharon Ferranti Community Volunteer
Ms. Cary Fountain Community Volunteer
Dr. William Jackson Frable VCU Health Systems
Ms. Renee Gilman Community Volunteer
Mr. Thomas A. Grant Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP
Dr. William Hark Richmond Allergy & Asthma Specialists
Mr. Alan Hess Wells Fargo Advisors
Mrs. Michelle Holmes Community Volunteer
Mrs. Cora Huitt Women's Health Physical Therapy
Mr. Kemper Hyers Community Volunteer
Mr. Henry Johnson Community Volunteer
Ms. Elizabeth King Ameriprise
Mrs. Esta Kornstein Community Volunteer
Dr. Susan Kornstein Community Volunteer
Mr. Russell E. Lundeberg Jr.Barrett Capital Management LLC
Mr. Guillermo Maquivar Community Volunteer
Mrs. Elspeth McClelland BB&T
Dr. Elisabeth Muhlenfeld Community Volunteer
Ms. Rebecca Neale Dominion Resources
Ms. Wendy Pestrue St. Francis Medical Center and Bon Secours Cancer Institute
Mrs. Patricia P. Pusey Community Volunteer
Ms. Marika A. Rawles Community Volunteer
Mr. C. Jeffers Schmidt Jr.Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney
Mr. Austin Sheldon SunTrust Bank and SunTrust Investment Services, Inc.
Mr. J. Kenneth Timmons Jr.Wells, Coleman & Company, LLP
Mr. J. Kenneth Timmons Jr.CPA, General Partner, Wells, Coleman & Company, LLP
Mrs. Mary Z. Zeugner Davenport & Company LLC
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 32
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 14
Female 19
Board Term Lengths 2
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 65
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 20
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 3
Standing Committees
Board Governance
Advisory Board / Advisory Council
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
Special Events (Golf Tournament, Walk / Run, Silent Auction, Dinner / Gala)
Other Boards
The tables below contain information about other groups that advise this nonprofit on operations and projects.
Executive Director
Executive Director Mr. Russell P. Allen

Russell P. Allen began his second tour-of-duty with Virginia Opera in September, 2011. He had been General Manager from 1994-2000. Allen previously served as Executive Director of The Washington Ballet and Orlando Ballet where he worked in both positions building stronger administrative operations, generating increased earned and contributed revenue, strategically growing the institutions, and furthering each organization’s mission and visibility in their respective communities. Prior to his seven years in ballet, Allen served as General Manager for The Atlanta Opera, following his six years at Virginia Opera. Throughout his tenure serving major arts institutions, Allen has served as an independent arts consultant in both fundraising and administrative development including his most recent assignments with Young Audiences of Virginia in Hampton Roads and Dance Metro DC inWashington,DC. He also has had significant involvement with the OPERA America Field Services Program and the National Endowment for the Arts On-Site Review Program. Mr. Allen also worked for sixteen years in symphony management; eight years of which was as Vice President and General Manager of The Phoenix Symphony. As a leader in the cultural arena, Allen has been active on grant review panels for state arts commissions inTexas,Arizona, andMaryland, and for the past three years with the Virginia Commission for the Arts. He also has served on both the opera and dance panels for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Co-CEO Mr. Howard Bender
Term Start Aug 2013

Howard Bender began his 37 career in the music industry with a Bachelor of Music and a M.M. in Voice from Manhattan School of Music, followed by a residency at The Juilliard American Opera Center. During his student years, he supported himself as Cantor of two major New York Synagogues. He then embarked upon a 28 year career as a character tenor in the US, Canada, Italy, Germany, and Israel that included four seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, debuting in the world premiere of John Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles under the baton of James Levine. He was a frequent guest at the opera houses of Montréal, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, Pittsburgh, Portland, Spoleto USA, Düsseldorf, Spoleto Festival di Due Mondi, Palermo and Tel Aviv and appeared with the symphony orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Jerusalem and the Israel Philharmonic. He has collaborated with James Levine, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sir Richard Bonynge, James Conlon, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Edoardo Müller, Lukas Foss, Asher Fisch, Gerard Schwarz, Harry Bicket, Robert Spano, John Mauceri, Stephen Lord and Frédéric Chaslin. His discography includes the music of Menotti, Offenbach, Humperdinck and Musgrave. Bender's relationship with Virginia Opera began in 1978 as a young baritone, singing Masetto in Don Giovanni, followed by Marcello in La Bohème, one the first productions to be co-presented with the Richmond Friends of Opera at the Mosque. He became an arts administrator in 1998, serving first as Director of Artistic Administration at Italy’s UmbriaMusicFest, a position he held through 2008, when he became Artistic Consultant. In 2000, he facilitated a sister city relationship with the Umbrian town of Todi and its UmbriaMusicFest, ultimately creating TodiMusicFest in America, the first summer music festival in the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia.  

Former CEOs
Mr. Keith Stava Aug 2000 - Feb 2003
Mr. Paul A. Stuhlreyer IIISept 2003 - July 2011
Full Time Staff 27
Part Time Staff 12
Volunteers 200
Contractors 200
Retention Rate 75
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 5
Date Strategic Plan Adopted June 2012
Management Succession Plan? No
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes

Virginia Opera is dedicated to serving as a leader not only in the field of opera, specifically, but in the performing arts, in general. Each season, the Company employs artists and partners with performance groups throughout the State, including, but not limited to, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Ballet, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Governor’s School for the Arts, Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia Children’s Chorus, D’Art Center, and FestEvents, providing collaborative opportunities for professional statewide programs. The Opera’s President and CEO Russell P. Allen, has served on the Virginia Commission for the Arts Review Panel  and has served as a panelist, moderator, and professional consultant for agencies across the country.   Numerous members of Board leadership are active non-profit advocates, serving on the Boards of our arts partners throughout the state – most recently, one member served as Chairman of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and one served as Executive Director of Virginians for the Arts. The Company is an active participant in numerous local, regional, and statewide private and institutional arts initiatives. As mentioned, the Opera continues to pursue local as well as national cooperative projects and will continue its popular Opera in the Park program in both Norfolk and Richmond, in cooperation with Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and the Richmond Symphony, among others, as well as a new collaboration with WCVE-TV. Just recently, Virginia Opera provided the content for a Virginia Currents twelve-minute video on the making of opera. This broadcast aired in Richmond on January 16, 2014. It is anticipated that another broadcast will be developed for the 2014-15 Season. 

Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce2012
As "The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth," Virginia Opera is dedicated to serving as a leader not only in the field of opera specifically, but in the performing arts in general.  Each main stage season, the Company employs and collaborates with artists and performance groups throughout the State, including, but not limited to, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Governor's School for the Arts, Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet and Virginia Arts Festival.  Virginia Opera has been producing professional main stage performances since 1974 and now serves the Commonwealth's largest metropolitan areas - Hampton Roads, Richmond and Fairfax, with a combined population of five million.  Virginia Opera mainstage productions represent Virginia citizen's best, and often "only," opportunity to experience the richness of opera at a fully-staged performance. 
Last season, the Company presented thirty-two performances of four professional productions.
Population Served General/Unspecified
Budget $3,000,624.00
Short Term Success Virginia Opera’s main stage performances serve the Commonwealth’s three largest metropolitan areas - Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia. By offering performances across multiple venues, the company is able to spread the fixed cost required to mount each production, making the Company one of the lowest cost producers of opera in the United States when compared to similarly sized companies performing in comparable venues.  From its inception, Virginia Opera has been staunchly committed to enriching the lives of young people by instilling in them an appreciation for the arts. With the increased demand for the Opera’s programs—because of the decrease in arts programming in public schools— Virginia Opera travels statewide to provide age-appropriate programs and services to K-12 students and community groups.
Long Term Success

The mission of Virginia Opera encompasses much more than staging world-class operas each season.  As hard as we work to present only the highest quality productions, we work even harder to ensure that opera and culture continue to have a future in Virginia.  By teaching our young people about opera, opening our doors to all families, bringing awareness to our communities, and cultivating the opera stars of tomorrow, we are helping to build a Virginia that includes in the vibrant spirit of its citizens a love for the cultural arts that contribute to greatly to the richness of our society.

Virginia Opera's Education and Community Outreach programs offer a number of innovative and entertaining activities for children and adults of all ages.  From community concerts to behind-the-scenes tours, the Opera brings imaginative programming to schools and community venues throughout the Commonwealth. Virginia Opera currently travels statewide to provide age-appropriate programs and services to K-12 students and community groups that include: In-school and Community Performances;  Student Night(s) at the Opera;  Student Matinee Performances; Operation Opera; and  Emerging Artists Program.  Annually, the Opera offers over 250 age-appropriate opera education performances and/or residencies in schools and community venues in 35 regions throughout Virginia.   Members of Virginia Opera’s Emerging Artists Program, a comprehensive training and professional development course, have been featured in each season’s casts and cover (understudy) all principal roles. 
Budget $231,486.00
CEO/ED/Board Comments
Virginia Opera has experienced significant organizational change in the past three years. The staff leadership of the administrative operation and the staff leadership of the artistic operation have been consolidated into one position – a paid President and CEO. Under the President and CEO’s direction, there is an Artistic Director and a Producing Director, who together oversee all productions and public offerings of Virginia Opera and supervise respectively the operations of the artistic components and the technical components.  Additionally, there are Directors of Finance, Development, Marketing and Education who organize, direct and supervise operations and staff to fulfill the function of each department. This group comprises a Senior Staff of seven for Virginia Opera, each of whom reports to the President and CEO. The Senior Staff meets weekly with the President and CEO to ensure a seamless operation in developing the resources for and the product of Virginia Opera.  All Senior Staff positions are currently filled by permanent staff members.  The Senior Staff members, including the President and CEO, have an average of 5.5 years of experience as full-time staff of Virginia Opera. Four of the Senior Staff members have significant institutional knowledge dating back to 1994. Though there has been transition at the top, there remains significant institutional stability in staff leadership.  Both leadership and membership of the organization have responded most favorably to recent changes as evidenced by early sales for the 2014-15 season as well as donor response. All of the Opera’s funders have been encouraging and overwhelmingly positive in their replies to inquiries. Further, requests for statewide arts partnerships and collaborations have significantly increased, providing new program and resource opportunities. 
Fiscal Year
Projected Revenue $5,459,076.00
Projected Expenses $5,271,917.00
Endowment Value $4,080,996.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage (if selected) 5
Form 990s
IRS Letter of Exemption
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201520142013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$0$0$0
Individual Contributions$1,710,645$3,052,750$5,427,569
Investment Income, Net of Losses--($272)$48,896
Membership Dues------
Special Events$259,542$148,756$82,202
Revenue In-Kind------
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201520142013
Program Expense$4,099,497$3,381,620$4,994,940
Administration Expense$805,088$1,257,522$1,532,600
Fundraising Expense$588,080$432,789$519,032
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.970.961.08
Program Expense/Total Expenses75%67%71%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue17%14%9%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201520142013
Total Assets$571,677$455,832$836,108
Current Assets$424,773$313,397$715,009
Long-Term Liabilities$0$36,621$387,021
Current Liabilities$2,090,365$1,694,381$1,536,370
Total Net Assets($1,518,688)($1,257,170)($1,087,283)
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities0.200.180.47
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%8%46%
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitaions Permit
Solicitations Permit
Solicitations Permit 11/2016View
Organization Comments

The past few years saw remarkable change for Virginia Opera as the Company experienced a major leadership transition. The Company has continued to make great strides in consolidating resources and producing a more balanced repertoire to meet the demands of its audiences. Response to the Opera’s new programming direction has been well received and leadership feels positive that this programming trend, enabled by the current professional management team, will continue to realize increased revenues, both earned and contributed. The future bodes bright as a clear path has been identified. The generosity of the Company’s major donors has not only provided critical funding during a financially challenging period, but has illustrated to all of our funders and partners, the depth of their commitment to the art form as well as their endorsement of Virginia Opera’s product. The development of a slate of collaborative projects has also been well received by artists, critics and patrons alike and the Opera is certain that with the renewed generosity of our long-time supporters, and significant major gift support, the Company will enjoy its 40th Anniversary on a firm and balanced foundation.

Foundation Comments
  • Audited financial statements represent the combined financial position of both the Virginia Opera Association and the Virginia Opera Foundation.
  • IRS 990s represent solely the financial position of the Virginia Opera Association.