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

The vision of Virginia Opera is enriching the cultural community of the Commonwealth of Virginia through the passion, power and beauty of opera. The mission of Virginia Opera is to engage, educate and excite a diverse base of audiences, volunteers and professionals through the production of quality opera performances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Web and Social Media
Multi-Media Comments
Of the 2016-17 Performance Season, the critics said it best:
The Seven Deadly Sins and Pagliacci : ….the theatrical vitality of the concept and the musical urgency that complemented it added up to a convincing, involving experience. Conductor Adam Turner had the music churning brightly and drew snappy, even sizzling work from the orchestra Opera News

Speaking of Virginia Opera, that company's repertoire choices are savvy and adventurous, certainly more interesting than the standard fare Lyric Opera has focused on so far. – The Baltimore Sun

The Barber of Seville: An updated ‘Barber of Seville’ has verve, vitality and buckets of humor….Virginia Opera’s new production of Gioachino Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville,’ which opened Friday at the Harrison Opera House, has it all: truly gorgeous singing, John Baril’s crisp conducting, Michael Shell’s inventive direction and, not least, laughs galore. – The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia Opera is ambitious here, going for over-the-top entertainment while never underserving or disrespecting the beauty and majesty of the opera itself. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it all works. The show is beyond memorable. It’s unforgettable. – The Richmond-Times Dispatch

Der Freischűtz: Virginia Opera hits the target with a winning Freischütz. – Washington Classical Review

Although it is a pivotal work in music history, not to mention a stirring one in sound and story, few companies in the United States give Der Freischütz a second thought these days. Virginia Opera, which never tires of expanding its repertoire, decided to give Weber’s great work a lot of thought. The very classy vocalism was matched by assured acting.…a performance that felt vital and spontaneous throughout….an intriguing concept by director Stephen Lawless, who set his sights on giving the piece, first presented in 1821 in Berlin, a thoroughly American angle. – Opera News

Turandot : Virginia Opera’s ‘Turnadot’ is an unforgettable production – bold in its vision and entirely enthralling in its execution. The Richmond Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Demain, is exciting and dynamic, alternately swirling, swelling, crashing and easing, and always seamlessly blending with the singers to deliver the full measure of the beautiful music of Puccini’s final opera. Bravos all around. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

CEO/Executive Director Mr. Russell P. Allen
Board Chair Dr. Elisabeth Muhlenfeld Wollan
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired President, Sweetbriar College
Contact Information
Address Dominion Arts Center
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
Revenue vs Expense Bar Graph - All Years
Expense Breakdown Bar Chart - All Years
Projected Revenue $5,180,253.00
Projected Expenses $4,925,282.00

The vision of Virginia Opera is enriching the cultural community of the Commonwealth of Virginia through the passion, power and beauty of opera. The mission of Virginia Opera is to engage, educate and excite a diverse base of audiences, volunteers and professionals through the production of quality opera performances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


In 2016-17, in addition to its mainstage activities, Virginia Opera delivered 253 education and outreach programs reaching nearly 120,000 people in more than 100 schools and community regions in 35 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 forty-second anniversary producing twenty-eight 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. Expand In-school touring and outreach programming;
  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

Continuing the Opera’s popular First of Firsts series, the Virginia Opera Season opens in September 2017 with the grand opera Samson and Delilah. This biblical tale, found in the Old Testament’s Book of Judges, features a number of widely-popular arias from the French repertoire and will serve as a showcase for both soloists and chorus.  Conducted by Virginia Opera’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Adam Turner, with award-winning director Paul Curran, Samson will feature sets and costumes by acclaimed Broadway designer Court Watson.  Portraying the title roles will be tenor Derek Taylor and mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner. In November, the Opera presents the long-awaited return, following a 30-year absence from the Virginia Opera repertoire, of Puccini’s “great symphonic poem” The Girl of the Golden West.  Set in an 1849 mining camp during the California gold rush, the opera will be directed by veteran Lillian Groag and will be conducted by Florida Grand Opera maestro Andrew Bisantz. Starring in the rarely-produced Puccini opus are soprano Jill Gardner, Canadian tenor Roger Honewell, baritone Michael Mayes and bass-barritone Jake Gardner.  In February 2018, the season continues with a new production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, designed and directed by former Norfolk resident Michael Shell, whose worked has graced the stages of theatres and opera housed around the country.  This will mark the second piece by Britten that the Opera has produced, and the first in a new production.  All three productions of the season listed above will feature the talents of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Closing the season in April 2018 will be a striking new production of Donizetti’s melodic tragedy Lucia di Lammermoor, starring Grammy Award-winning artist Audrey Luna accompanied by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra under the baton of world-renowned conductor Ari Pelto.


Virginia Opera offers a variety of programs for Grades K-12, both in-school, during normal school hours and outside normal school hours at various public venues. All in-school programs are fully-staged and feature the Company’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists, accompanied by piano. Programs are designed to align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs) and address such areas as music, art, English, history, mathematics and social studies. Prior to the opening of last season, the Board of Directors unanimously adopted an Education Program Strategic Plan that established the goal of securing the youngest opera audience in America by 2025. 

Board Chair Statement
I again have the distinct pleasure of reporting that Virginia Opera has completed another remarkably successful season.  We have experienced a year filled with gratifying achievements in every category: marvelous productions, exciting fundraising and social events, strengthening relationships across our communities, and unsurpassed dedication of our Boards, volunteers and staff in dealing with difficult issues, while moving toward greater institutional stability.  From an artistic standpoint, it would be difficult to imagine a more satisfying season: The innovative pairing of "The Seven Deadly Sins" with "Pagliacci" offered an excitingly unfamiliar work, with heightened effect owing to its juxtaposition with a heartrending classic.  The hilarious staging of our "Barber of Seville" showcased both beautiful voices and unforgettable images (from circus performers to a chicken nightmare!). The radical decision to program the seminal, but rarely staged, romantic masterpiece "Der Freischutz" brought Virginia Opera national recognition with its ravishing music and thoughtful production.  And ending our season with the sublimely creative presentation of "Turandot" was wonderfully rewarding on all levels.
Allan S. Reynolds, Jr. Chairman of the Board, FY2017 
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 Dominion Arts Center 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 Wollan
Company Affiliation Retired President, Sweetbriar College
Term July 2017 to June 2019
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. Billy Harper SunTrust Bank
Mr. Alan Hess Wells Fargo Advisors
Mrs. Michelle Holmes Community Volunteer
Mrs. Cora Huitt Women's Health Physical Therapy
Mr. Kemper Hyers Community Volunteer
Ms. Elizabeth King Ameriprise
Mrs. Esta Kornstein Community Volunteer
Dr. Susan Kornstein Community Volunteer
Mr. Michael B. Lott GAI Consultants
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
Dr. John Reynolds Retired
Mr. C. Jeffers Schmidt Jr.Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney
Ms. Marilyn Scott VCU Libraries
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 2
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 34
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 17
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. Robert Veland
Term Start Aug 1999

After graduating from High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bob started out his career by serving six years in the United States Navy. During his various tours of duty he was assigned to several commands, most notably serving aboard the maiden voyage of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. After being Honorably Discharged from the service, he attended Old Dominion University full time and earned his Baccalaureate degree in 1992 after only three years. He has worked in the accounting field for over twenty-five years, and most recently worked as a regional implementation consultant for a national accounting software firm. Originally starting with the opera in a senior accounting role nearly 18 years ago, he now serves as Chief Financial Officer.


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 twenty-eight performances of four professional productions.
Population Served General/Unspecified
Budget $3,000,500.00
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 recent 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 2017-18 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 $5,180,253.00
Projected Expenses $4,925,282.00
Endowment Value $533,392.00
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 Year201620152014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$0$0$0
Individual Contributions$2,533,543$1,710,645$3,052,750
Investment Income, Net of Losses----($272)
Membership Dues------
Special Events$123,938$259,542$148,756
Revenue In-Kind------
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$4,159,444$4,099,497$3,381,620
Administration Expense$734,824$805,088$1,257,522
Fundraising Expense$521,658$588,080$432,789
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.030.970.96
Program Expense/Total Expenses77%75%67%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue14%17%14%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$833,614$571,677$455,832
Current Assets$505,846$424,773$313,397
Long-Term Liabilities$182,671$0$36,621
Current Liabilities$2,002,648$2,090,365$1,694,381
Total Net Assets($1,351,705)($1,518,688)($1,257,170)
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities0.250.200.18
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets22%0%8%
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 44rd 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.