Sarasota Opera announces five-year contract extension and new title for Richard Russell

June 1, 2021
Contact: Lana Mullen, Communications Coordinator
(941) 328-1322
[email protected]

Sarasota, FL—Sarasota Opera announced today that Richard Russell’s contract has been extended through the 2025–26 season, and that his job title will change from Executive Director to General Director to better reflect the breadth of his responsibilities with the company. Russell will continue to collaborate with Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Victor DeRenzi in the planning of upcoming seasons.

Sarasota Opera Board of Trustees president Syble Di Girolamo said, “Sarasota Opera is fortunate to have had such an incredibly talented, passionate, and dedicated executive providing leadership for our company and our local arts community during the coronavirus pandemic. We are delighted that Mr. Russell will continue in his leadership role through the next five years as we face the challenges of the post pandemic recovery and our return to full-capacity programming.”

Russell’s first affiliation with Sarasota Opera began thirty-two years ago, when the young tenor joined the company’s apprentice training program. He sang in subsequent seasons through 1993 as a studio and principal artist. After a career in banking, he returned to the company serving as Director of Marketing in 2005-2010. After two years as General Director of Opera New Jersey, Russell was named Executive Director in 2012.

Since then, Sarasota Opera has increased individual giving by over 50%, and more than doubled its endowment. Russell managed the fundraising and construction for the Steinwachs Artist Residences, which encompasses 30 units, housing up to 70 artists. Russell also engineered the purchase of an historic collection of opera costumes that now comprise the Sarasota Opera Costume Studio. Most recently he and Maestro DeRenzi oversaw the safe and successful completion of the company’s 62nd season as the only opera company in the United States to present a fully staged season in its theater through the pandemic. This included the first livestreamed operas from the Sarasota Opera House stage. 

Russell concludes,“I’m delighted to continue to be associated with Sarasota Opera which has been so important to my life. I look forward to continued possibilities and the evolution and growth of our company and our wonderful community.”


About Sarasota Opera

Sarasota Opera is entering its 62nd Season of bringing world-class opera to Florida’s Gulf Coast. The company was launched in 1960, when a touring chamber opera company came to the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. The following year the Asolo Opera Guild was formed to present the season. By 1974 the Asolo Opera was mounting its own productions at the theater. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to full-scale opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater which in 1984 (as the Sarasota Opera House) became home to the newly renamed Sarasota Opera. The building underwent a $20 million renovation and rehabilitation in 2007 enhancing audience amenities, while updating the technical facilities, including increasing the size of the orchestra pit. The theater, which reopened in March 2008, has been called “one of America’s finest venues for opera” by Musical America.

Since 1983, the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi and administrative leadership of Executive Director Richard Russell since 2012. Sarasota Opera has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as the Verdi Cycle, completed in 2016, that made Sarasota Opera the only opera company in the world to present all of Verdi’s works. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice and Studio Artists programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its Explorations in Opera performances for local schools and the industry-leading Sarasota Youth Opera program.

Sarasota Opera is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs are supported in part by an award from the Tourist Development Tax through the Board of County Commissioners, the Tourist Development Council and the Sarasota County Arts Council. Additional funding is provided by the City of Sarasota and the County of Sarasota.

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