Virginia Opera this week announced its 2023-2024 season, and subscriptions are now on sale for a diverse lineup of productions. Siegfried, the continuation of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” will launch the new season followed by a new production of Rossini’s outrageous comedy The Barber of Seville. 2024 kicks off with a searing production of the contemporary opera-oratorio about the Underground Railroad, Sanctuary Road; and Puccini’s classic Madama Butterfly brings the season to a close. As the company approaches its 50th anniversary, Virginia Opera continues to build momentum by producing ambitious productions, presenting innovative programming, and successfully cultivating new audiences.
The 2023-24 season features a diverse slate of stage directors and singers making up a thrilling lineup of returning favorites and noteworthy debuts. Further details will be released later this summer. “Our new season is about giving audiences—old and new—an opportunity to hear fresh voices,” said Peggy Kriha Dye, General Director and CEO of Virginia Opera. “Whether the opera is an established classic or new to Virginia, each work offers a different perspective on this fantastic art form.”
Virginia Opera’s Artistic Director, Adam Turner, couldn’t agree more. “The season features comedy and tragedy—operas both old and new. The season offers both escapism and deep engagement in different issues we face today. Across the season, there truly is something for everyone.” Additionally, the 2023-2024 season will feature both the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony, in addition to Virginia Opera’s Chorus. “We are so excited to continue building robust relationships with these phenomenal ensembles, and we are grateful for their continued collaboration statewide.”
In reflecting on how the energy of the 2022-2023 season led the creation of the next season, Dye explains that “new audiences are increasingly interested in opera. 67% of ticket buyers for the Commonwealth premiere of Fellow Travelers were first time patrons of Virginia Opera. The 2023-2024 season will continue this trend by telling stories that represent the interests of an ever-widening audience base across Virginia.”
Beyond the mainstage season, Virginia Opera will continue to work in the community as a civic partner with a growing number of institutions. Virginia Opera’s popular Opera in the Classroom will include a tour of Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, and additional outings such as Pride in Black Voices, Musical Storytime, Let’s Talk Opera, Creators in Conversation, and more will continue throughout the year.
“We are using opera to engage with communities,” says Michelle Ford, Virginia Opera’s Civic Engagement Coordinator. “We believe that opera is for everyone, and we are looking to create as many opportunities as possible for our communities statewide to be a part of Virginia Opera and vice versa.”
Additionally, programming will continue to take place leading up to the 50th Anniversary Season (2024-2025) and the world-premiere co-commissioning of Loving v. Virginia. Workshops for this new opera will be featured throughout the Commonwealth in collaboration with The Richmond Symphony. Over the course of the season, public programming and private events will be presented, giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at how a new opera is put together. Audiences will have the opportunity to learn about the creative process while engaging in important issues dramatized in the opera. Dye concludes, “It’s an exciting time at Virginia Opera, and I hope everyone joins us for this next chapter. You don’t want to miss it.”
Siegfried will unite the award-winning team of The Valkyrie to present the third installment of Wagner’s “Ring.” Picking up where the epic myth left off, audiences will be introduced to the young hero, Siegfried, as he re-forges the sword of his forefathers, defeats a dragon, and finds true love. This innovative production will also feature extensive educational programming to ensure audiences old and new can equally enjoy themselves at the opera. Siegfried will be presented in an arrangement by Jonathan Dove, making for a shorter evening in the theater without sacrificing the music and drama of the original piece.
For something totally different, the season continues with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, a classic comedy about love, deception, money, and mayhem. When the Count Almaviva falls hopelessly in love with the young Rosina, he convinces their mutual friend Figaro to free her from the clutches of the miserly Don Bartolo. Filled with some of the most famous melodies and characters ever created for the operatic stage, The Barber of Seville is sure to capture the hearts of audiences statewide.
Presented in partnership with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Sanctuary Road is a searing opera-oratorio that explores the story of the Underground Railroad. With a musical score by Paul Moravec and a libretto by Mark Campbell, this genre-bending work explores narratives of hardship, escape, and freedom. Based on the writings of William Still, an African American conductor of the Underground Railroad, this opera uncovers stories from the past that greatly impact our collective future. Additionally, musical collaborators from around the Commonwealth and partners from across the state will help use the stories and music of Sanctuary Road a springboard for greater conversation, bringing the opera viscerally to life.
Finally, the season concludes with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This ever-popular opera will feature an all-female, Asian creative team, bringing a new lens to this tragic tale. Bound by tradition and honor, a young Japanese maiden is left to grapple with the aftermath of being abandoned by a reckless American naval officer. Filled with aching melodies and featuring one of the most complex characters ever conceived, this opera about love, loss, and sacrifice is sure to be a cathartic, emotional experience.
“By the end of this season, we hope audiences will think about opera—and the human stories presented throughout— a little differently,” says Turner. “Opera has the power to bring people together. As we sit in a darkened theater we laugh, cry, and think. This is the power of opera, and I hope it inspires audiences to continue supporting this great art form for another 49 years and beyond.”
Packages for Virginia Opera’s 2023-2024 Season in Norfolk and Richmond can be purchased at vaopera.org or by calling 866.673.7282. Tickets for the Virginia Opera season at the Center for the Arts in Fairfax will be available in May for subscriptions and August for individual tickets.