Virginia Opera Association, Inc., in its 45th year of operation, is known and respected nationwide for the identification and presentation of the finest young 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 $5.3 million with over 28 mainstage performances, reaching nearly 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 chair Edythe C. Harrison, Virginia Opera was launched with two productions in the Norfolk Center Theater. Shortly thereafter, Peter Mark was appointed Artistic Director, a position he held for over 35 years. Peter Mark was named Artistic Director Emeritus in 2012. Russell P. Allen, appointed President and CEO in 2011, currently leads the company – returning to Virginia Opera after six years as General Manager from 1994-2000. Adam Turner was appointed Artistic Director in 2018.
Virginia Opera’s statewide expansion began by producing in Richmond in 1977 with the encouragement of Governor Mills Godwin and Mrs. T. Fleetwood (Anna) Garner. Under their leadership, The Richmond Friends of Opera was formed to present Virginia Opera productions annually in the capital city. By 1983, the Richmond and Central Virginia Board of Virginia Opera 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 has presented some of the nation’s most promising singers on its stages including Diana Soviero, Ashley Putnam, John Aler, Rockwell Blake, Renée Fleming, Barbara Dever, Grant Youngblood, Fabiana Bravo, Lawrence Brownlee, Nmon Ford, Jake Gardner, Mary Elizabeth Williams,David Portillo, Ginger Costa-Jackson, David Pershall and Nadine Sierra. Attracting acclaimed directors from the theater and opera world, audiences have enjoyed the work of Gian Carlo Menotti, Gordon Davidson, Greg Ganakas, Arvin Brown, Dorothy Danner, Lillian Groag, Sam Helfrich and Stephen Lawless, among others, in new productions designed by the nation’s top opera and theater designers. Virginia Opera has continued its tradition of commissioning/co-commissioning new works as illustrated by the world premieres of A Christmas Carol, Harriet – The Woman Called Moses, Simón Bolivar, Pocahontas, and, most recently, Rappahannock County.
The company produces four mainstage productions including performances at the Edythe C. and Stanley L. 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. Virginia Opera is the only opera company to perform a full season of opera in multiple mainstage venues and to reach more than 150,000 students and community members each year through its innovative Education and Community Outreach Program. Building upon past accomplishments, the 2018-2019 Season features an exciting level of artistry and diverse programming. While remaining committed to securing the highest caliber of vocal talent, the Opera will invite brilliant conductors and directors, assisted by the next generation of gifted artists, to challenge audiences and create new opera experiences.