Russell P. Allen, President and CEO
Adam Turner, Artistic Director
Peter Mark, Artistic Director Emeritus
Virginia Opera Association, Inc., in its 46th 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. 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.
Russell P. Allen
President and CEO
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. During his successful tenure in ballet management, Allen partnered with artistic directors Bruce Marks, Fernando Bujones, and Septime Webre.
Prior to his seven years in ballet, Allen served as General Manager for The Atlanta Opera, following his six years at Virginia Opera. His work with Virginia Opera in the 90s saw the organization through both its 20th and 25th gala seasons, and through six years of growth in both audience size and contributed revenue. Now looking ahead to its 44th Season in 2018-19, Allen will plan with Virginia Opera’s Board of Directors the direction of the next phase of growth and development for 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 in Washington, 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 in Texas, Arizona, and Maryland, 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. Mr. Allen has been a member of the Valley Leadership Institute in Phoenix, the Civic Leadership Program in Hampton Roads, and served on a legislative sub-committee of the Virginia General Assembly on the state’s arts funding initiatives. He also served for four years as Chair of the Executive Directors Council of the Hampton Roads Cultural Alliance.
In his spare time, Allen has since 2006 served as President of his Homeowners Association in Florida and served on his college’s Alumni Board from 2003-2009. Allen was a double major in English and Music at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.
American conductor Adam Turner is quickly gaining momentum as a conductor to watch on international opera stages. Currently in his second season as Artistic Director of Virginia Opera (following four seasons as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor), Maestro Turner garners critical acclaim for the breadth of his repertoire, artistic vision, and polished technique. Of his recent performance of Street Scene with Virginia Opera, Opera News hailed the “sensitive conducting” of Adam Turner “who demonstrated an affinity for a score as stylistically diverse as the characters in the plot.” In his second season as Artistic Director of Virginia Opera, Maestro Turner will conduct performances of Tosca, Daniel Catán’s Il Postino, La Cenerentola, and Aida.
Last season, Mo. Turner made debut appearances with San Diego Opera (Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, with the legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade), the Buffalo Philharmonic (Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins), Intermountain Opera Bozeman (Eugene Onegin); and in his inaugural season as Artistic Director of Virginia Opera led productions of Street Scene, Don Giovanni, The Elixir of Love, Madama Butterfly, and Jack Perla’s An American Dream. Additionally, Mo. Turner returned to Central City Opera to conduct Madama Butterfly for the 2019 summer season.
In recent seasons, Mr. Turner conducted Samson et Dalila, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Der Freischütz, The Seven Deadly Sins, Pagliacci, La bohème, and Der fliegende Holländer at Virginia Opera, Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera Baltimore, and collaborated with renowned conductor John DeMain on Washington National Opera’s production of Kurt Weill’s final stage composition Lost in the Stars. Additionally, The Kurt Weill Foundation named Maestro Turner the inaugural recipient of the Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellowship in 2015.
Turner has recently earned a reputation for being a champion of new works. He conducted the workshop of If I Were You by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, The Halloween Tree by composer Theo Popov and librettist Tony Asaro, Biennale: A Comic Opera by composer Paul Richards and librettist Wendy Steiner, assisted in the world-première of Ricky Ian Gordon’s American Civil War-inspired musical theatre masterpiece Rappahannock County (subsequently released on the Naxos label), and assisted composer David Carlson in Florida Grand Opera’s world-première production of Anna Karenina.
Other recent guest conducting engagements include: The Tender Land at Northwestern University; Three Decembers with Hawaii Opera Theatre; Händel’s Messiah with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra; a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program Holiday Concert with Washington National Opera; Sweeney Todd at Hawaii Opera Theatre and Eugene Opera; Le nozze di Figaro, Dead Man Walking, Carmen, La bohème, Man of La Mancha and Oklahoma! with Central City Opera; Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Britten’s biblically inspired Noye’s Fludde during his tenure as Resident Conductor at Ash Lawn Opera; and H.M.S. Pinafore, Carmen, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Mikado, Carousel, and Camelot for Virginia Opera.
During regular appearances with Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Richmond Symphony, Mr. Turner conducted Young People’s Concerts and additional outreach activities. His leadership of Virginia Opera’s annual “Opera in the Park” series, featuring both of the aforementioned orchestras in their respective communities, reaches nearly 10,000 attendees across the Commonwealth of Virginia with a program of opera and popular hits, ensuring the next generation of prospective opera lovers, and bridging the gap between popular and classical music genres. He appeared in concert with singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby, conducting the Virginia Symphony Orchestra at the 2018 Funhouse Fest, and has performed alongside singer-songwriter Ben Folds, conducting “The Orchestra Experience” during his tour stop in Virginia Beach. Additionally, Maestro Turner conducted at the David Oistrakh Festival in Estonia, featuring appearances with the St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra, Pärnu City Orchestra, and the Kaiserslautern Symphony Orchestra.
Turner first gained recognition at age 25 during his tenure at Stadttheater Pforzheim in Germany while taking over conducting responsibilities of a production of Les Misérables. Musicals – Das Musicalmagazin, Germany’s premier musical theater publication lauded his work: “Les Mis reveals even here its magical effectiveness… The main reason for this is the performance of the orchestra, led by a young American conductor, Adam Turner, who brings to the piece a suspenseful drama that one does not always hear, even on the legendary, anniversary recording at the Royal Albert Hall. During the dramatic dialogues, he pushes the action forward but one is nonetheless able to understand every single word…he builds up the aria-like solos with great crescendos yet purposefully does not turn the first Thénardier-Song into a homely operetta number…” There, he also conducted Lehár’s Paganini and Cole Porter’s High Society.
Prior to his appointment as the youngest administrator in Virginia Opera’s history, Turner proved he has a vision for the future of the industry as a member of the next generation of leaders while holding several administrative and music staff appointments at houses across the country including Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Central City Opera, Portland Opera, Tulsa Opera, Syracuse Opera, and Ash Lawn Opera. In these positions, Turner worked side-by-side with world-renowned maestri including Asher Fisch, Steuart Bedford, John DeMain, Gary Thor Wedow, and Broadway veteran Rob Fisher.
Turner holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Morehead State University, and a Master of Music degree from The Catholic University of America. He furthered his training with internationally acclaimed conductors and pedagogues Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Marin Alsop, Jorma Panula, Gustav Meier, Kenneth Kiesler, and Kate Tamarkin.