Victor DeRenzi

Victor DeRenzi
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor

Entering his 42nd season as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Sarasota Opera, Victor DeRenzi has overseen 205 productions of 121 different operas, has conducted over 1,000 performances of opera - almost 850 of them being at the Sarasota Opera - as well as numerous concerts.

He devoted much of his career to building Sarasota Opera while continuing to conduct nationally and internationally. Maestro DeRenzi has appeared across the United States with Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as at the St. Louis, Toledo, New Orleans and New York City operas. Internationally he has worked in Nice, Edmonton, Québec City, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and at L'Opéra du Montréal. He was also a frequent visitor to opera companies in Hong Kong and the Canary Islands.

Maestro DeRenzi's artistic vision has garnered the company international attention as a place to experience rarely performed works. He initiated Sarasota Opera's Verdi Cycle, which was concluded in 2016, making Sarasota Opera the only company in the world to have performed all of Verdi’s music. He began the Masterworks Revival Series, which produced neglected operas of significant artistic merit, and the American Classics Series dedicated to producing 20th Century operas by American composers.

This growth in the production of operas has been matched in other areas as well. Under Maestro DeRenzi's leadership, Sarasota Opera has created important educational and outreach activities. The year-round Sarasota Youth Opera Program introduces young people, ages 8 to 18, to all aspects of opera. The program constitutes remarkable learning and performing opportunities that include three Youth Opera Choruses and yearly performances on Sarasota Opera’s main stage of works written specifically for young voices, but with all aspects of the productions overseen by professionals.

Maestro DeRenzi's interest in the training of professional singers led to the founding of Sarasota Opera's Apprentice and Studio Artists programs. Chosen from national auditions, the participants in these programs form the chorus for the main stage opera productions, perform community outreach, understudy principal roles and perform secondary roles on the main stage. Many former Sarasota Opera Apprentice and Studio Artists have gone on to leading roles with the company as well as with other major opera houses around the world.

Maestro DeRenzi is a noted Verdi specialist, being the only conductor to have conducted the entire canon of Verdi’s works. Arts Critic Lawrence Johnson wrote, “Victor DeRenzi is simply the finest, most idiomatic Verdi conductor I’ve ever heard, and I’m not forgetting some much more celebrated names.” Maestro DeRenzi has also edited a two-volume edition of Verdi’s songs with piano, many of which were not previously available.

Although Maestro DeRenzi is a noted Italian opera conductor, his repertoire includes operas by Janáček, Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, and Stravinsky, among others. In 2022, he will be celebrating the 53rd anniversary of his debut as a conductor.

The City of Sarasota has recognized him on four separate occasions for service to the community. He was featured on the cover of Sarasota Magazine, which has twice recognized him as one of Sarasota's 100 Most Powerful People. In 2015 Maestro DeRenzi was made a “Cavaliere dell’ordine della stella d’italia”, Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy, by the Italian Republic, for his work in bringing Italian culture beyond the borders of Italy.

Richard Russell

Richard Russell
General Director

Richard Russell is General Director of Sarasota Opera. A former singer, he performed with the company for four seasons beginning in 1989 as an apprentice artist, studio artist, and principal. Among the roles he performed in other regional opera companies were Hoffman in The Tales of Hoffman, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Rodolfo in La bohème, and the title role in Andrea Chenier. As a concert artist he sang the world premiere Lewis Rosengarten’s Three Poems by Arnaut Daniel for Tenor and Orchestra with the Alabama Symphony.

After transitioning out of professional performing, he joined Citigroup’s Emerging Markets Sales and Trading group and within a short period he was a Vice-President and Global Webmaster for eCommerce efforts across Citigroup’s over 30 emerging markets countries in Latin America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Africa.

In 2005, he accepted the position of Director of Marketing at Sarasota Opera. He left in 2010 to become General Director of Princeton-based Opera New Jersey, where he was in charge of both the artistic and administrative sides of the company. He returned to Sarasota in 2012 to become Executive Director. During his tenure Sarasota Opera has increased individual giving by over 50%, more than doubled its endowment, and completed its world-renowned Verdi Cycle. Mr. Russell managed the construction and fundraising for the new Steinwachs Artist Residences for Sarasota Opera, which encompasses 30 units housing up to 70 artists.

He also negotiated and managed the purchase of stock of over 55,000 opera costumes, representing 135 separate productions to increase Sarasota Opera's inventory of costumes available for its own use and for rentals to other opera, theater, and film companies.

He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in voice performance and choral conducting from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.