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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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
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.
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