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Company Information

Virginia Opera Association, Inc.
Incorporated 1975


Virginia Opera will attract, educate, develop and engage a diverse base of audiences, volunteers and professionals through the promotion and production of quality performance in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Strengthening our cultural communities through the beauty, power, and passion of opera.


The staff, artists, directors and volunteers will always reflect a commitment to:

  • Quality and Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Diversity
  • Fiscal Responsibility


Virginia Opera strives to:

  • Sustain, attract and develop a diverse audience through the creation of quality programming that educates, inspires and entertains.
  • Increase total financial support to achieve our mission.
  • Attract and develop the human resources necessary to support our mission.
  • Operate in an effective and efficient manner to ensure long-term viability.

Company History

   Virginia Opera Association, Inc., in its 39th 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 $5.2 million with over 40 mainstage performances, reaching nearly 60,000 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. 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.

    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 young singers on its stages including Diana Soviero, Jeannine Altmeyer, John Aler, Rockwell Blake, Renée Fleming, Barbara Dever, Frank Porretta, Grant Youngblood, Fabiana Bravo, Lawrence Brownlee, Nmon Ford, Jeniece Goldbourne and Mary Elizabeth Williams.  Attracting acclaimed directors from the theatre and opera world, audiences have enjoyed the work of Gian Carlo Menotti, Gordon Davidson, Greg Ganakas, Arvin Brown, Dorothy Danner, Lillian Groag and Sam Helfrich, 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 five mainstage productions including performances at the Edythe C. and Stanley L. Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach, Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage 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 2012-13 Season will feature an exciting level of artistry and diverse programming – as the company moves forward to its Gala 40th Anniversary Season in 2014-15.  While remaining committed to securing the highest caliber of vocal talent, the Opera will invite brilliant conductors, assisted by the next generation of gifted artists, to challenge audiences and create new opera experiences.