A Look Back at Virginia Opera’s Stayin’ Alive

Words by Nathan Jacques.
Images courtesy of Virginia Opera.

Rolling with the punches to keep that light at the end of the tunnel burning bright and letting audiences know “this too shall pass,” our Virginia Opera’s Stayin’ Alive Alternate Fall was testament to the timeless passion by which the arts thrive. 

From the debut of our Weekly Wednesday Wind Down concerts on the lawn of Harrison Opera House,  pop-up curbside shows and weekly engagements, to Virtual Showcase concerts and streaming events with maestros, musicians, and principal artists, we provided two jam-packed months of programs for patrons across the Commonwealth and beyond through live and digital means and a little something for everyone.

Taking its final curtain on November 7, Stayin’ Alive gave VO audiences chances to select their own brand of command performance by our Herndon Foundation Artists, provided engaging discussions with our maestros, and indulged and entertained with trivia nights, wine tastings, ghost stories and world-class lectures, all enjoyed from the comfort of one’s couch or the safety of a socially distanced lawn chair.  Thanks to all those who checked in or checked it out along the way, as well as to our amazing artists, stage techs, support staff, and all who helped Stayin’ Alive to inspire as it evolved with us and the times! We certainly had fun, and the smiling faces of our audiences assured us that we were not only, as the Bee Gees put it, “Stayin’ Alive,” but, even thriving a bit too!

Virginia Opera Welcomes New General Director & CEO Peggy Kriha Dye

Words by Nathan Jacques.
Images courtesy of Virginia Opera.

The Hampton Roads region is a place of staggering cultural diversity, a “melting pot,” if you will, that  provides an array of arts-centric experiences and haven for both locals and visitors from all over the world to create, and to enjoy what others have created. Virginia Opera, while fully in the thick of what is nothing short of a revolution in arts presentation through their current Stayin’ Alive Alternate Fall series initiative, is also preparing to welcome yet another brilliant creative mind to the Hampton Roads arts community—as their new General Director and CEO. Peggy Kriha Dye, a Minnesota native, will take the helm of the beloved statewide opera company beginning on October 19, 2020.

Kriha Dye, no stranger to the timeless art of opera, is a graduate of Saint Cloud State University, Manhattan School of Music, and the Julliard Opera Center. Having graced over one-hundred stages across the globe during her incredible career as a soprano, she brings to the table not only a full understanding of performance, but a remarkable knowledge and prowess in the way of arts administration as well. A recipient of numerous accolades, including Musical America’s 2018 Professionals of the Year “Movers and Shakers Edition” award, Kriha Dye has, until her appointment with the VO, faithfully served Ohio’s renowned Opera Columbus organization through many key roles: Director of Education and Community Programming (2011-2014), Artistic Director (2014-2017), and, finally, General Director and CEO (2017-2020). Under her leadership, Opera Columbus flourished and became widely known for operatic excellence; acclaimed for its skillful presentation of both new artistic works and commissioned pieces, in addition to beloved classics in collaboration with a host of national and international partners. In addition to these wondrous achievements, Kriha Dye continues to serve on both the Board of Trustees of Opera America and the Women’s Opera Network. 

Of her appointment, Kriha Dye offers: “My thanks to the Virginia Opera and its Board and my good colleague and predecessor Russell Allen. It is an honor to be chosen to now lead the Virginia Opera in the next exciting chapter of its storied statewide history. I am humbled and excited to join the valuable leadership, staff, essential and ever-vital artists and creative partners— and Artistic Director, Maestro Adam Turner—in looking toward the Virginia Opera’s 50th Anniversary year in 2025. To be certain, as we will continue to face the many challenges that the current climate presents in tirelessly championing the performing arts that we love and hold so close, it is with equal certainty that we will find our best in meeting and joyfully prevailing in those challenges. I look forward to seeing you in Norfolk, Richmond, and Fairfax in October.”

VOA Staying Alive logo, the v in Alive is red, and overlaps the rest of the letters in a fancy way. The rest of the letters are black.

With only a month until another chapter in its storied history begins, Virginia Opera continues to deliver the utmost in opera entertainment to communities across Virginia through Stayin’ Alive – Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall. More information about the organization’s mission to inspire hearts and minds throughout the Commonwealth through the magic of music can be found on their official website: https://vaopera.org/stayin-alive/

STAYIN’ ALIVE – Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall

Words by Nathan Jacques.
Image courtesy of Virginia Opera.

Live performances are a wondrous thing, filled to the brim with all sorts of irreplaceable joys; the buzz of excitement backstage, “break-a-legs” exchanged between castmates, the sound of meticulous tuning of instruments in the pit, the audience humming with sheer anticipation, and so much more… all byproducts of the unique magic of live performance.

The theater has always acted as a “home-away-from-home” for many – myself included. No matter the level at which one participates, the beauty of it all is that it has the power to speak to the soul. Someone seeking refuge from the jarring discord of their daily life can find the harmony they so desperately crave in the arts; however, this basic human desire for expression – once thought to be inalienable – has been put on indefinite hold thanks to a threat we can’t even see. Those who found their “home-away-from-home” in the arts find themselves lost until curtains can rise once more. 

Performances have been cancelled. Workplaces have been closed. Even simple pleasures like visiting loved ones have been tossed out the window for the time being. The road back isn’t an easy one- we all want to go back to “normal” – but “normal” isn’t possible unless caution is taken. Arts organizations across the globe have adopted an “Amazon” approach to the delivery of their art to audience members stuck inside their homes; a click of the mouse grants fast n’ free shipping directly to the home. Sure, it’s convenient, but much like when shopping on Amazon the personal experience of picking out your purchase at a brick-and-mortar store is lost. The same applies to consumption of the arts. Of course, in the time of Corona, this concept is less of a matter of convenience, but rather a necessity done out of a concern for staff and patron health. 

Though the desire to return to our beloved home in the arts is overwhelming, a fine balance must be found in reopening arts venues. Thankfully, many arts organizations across our Commonwealth are pioneering new ways to engage audiences in rather impressive (and safe) avenues. The Virginia Opera recently announced Stayin’ Alive, Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall, to the world. They’ve got four incredibly talented artists – all part of the Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists program – and they’re ready to hit the ground running with eight weeks’ worth of digital AND live programming, both of which can be delivered straight to you – not just the digital stuff! 

Of course, all live events will be planned with the safety of both patrons and artists in mind. Every possible guideline for safe assembly will absolutely be observed, including mandatory mask wearing and social distancing – no worries! Local organizations or community venues are able (and encouraged) to partner with the Virginia Opera to host live events. For anyone interested in hosting an event, the Virginia Opera can be reached at this email address

A swiftly approaching Virtual Showcase, acting as an introduction to Stayin’ Alive, is scheduled for September 16 and aims to give everyone a taste of the sheer magic the Virginia Opera is planning to share with the world. More information on Stayin’ Alive can be found by visiting the official Virginia Opera website. You are also encouraged to follow the Virginia Opera on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to keep up with the latest happenings. Fresh and exciting programs like Stayin’Alive are among the first steps toward the reunification of art and audience for which humanity is waiting with bated breath.

For more information on Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall, you can visit their website!


Courtesy of Virginia Opera.

“Town Hall”-style online conversation with Artistic Director Adam Turner and Assistant Conductor/Chorus Master Brandon Eldredge also invites questions in open public session.

Hampton Roads, Richmond, Fairfax, VA (July 28, 2020)Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, invites members of the public to an informal and interactive virtual “cocktail party” conversation with both VO Artistic Director Adam Turner and Assistant Conductor/Chorus Master Brandon Eldredge.  Playfully dubbed “Martinis, Manhattans, and Maestros,” participants have the choice to join in live via Facebook or YouTube on Thursday,  July 30, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. (EST).

In addition to previewing Virginia Opera’s recently modified 2020-2021 “Love is a Battlefield” season, the interactive event encourages participants to ask questions, as the duo of  Virginia Opera maestros host guests on the company’s Facebook and YouTube pages. The full dialogue will also be recorded and made available after July 30 on both platforms.

Virginia Opera Artistic Director, Adam Turner: “If the current circumstances present real challenges, they also present real opportunities for us to find new ways of engaging the public and audience members online. Brandon and I are very excited for this opportunity to interact with both Virginia Opera fans and newcomers alike.  We’re hoping for a lively “discussion” and encourage participants to ‘drop in’  with their questions about the shows in our forthcoming season, opera, and music in general. What could be better than the chance to sit down and talk among friends over a refreshing beverage?”

Virginia Opera’s President and CEO, Russell Allen: “Maintaining connection with our audiences and communities is of paramount importance to Virginia Opera.  As we navigate these unprecedented times our goal is to be a communicative as possible and to provide transparent information about our plans for the future.”

Virginia Opera 2020-2021 Production Overview

La Voix Humaine – Francis Poulenc
If breaking up is hard to do, Francis Poulenc’s intimate one-act, one-soprano operatic adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1928 play manages to grab hold of that truth by its very soul. A young woman, a one-sided phone conversation, La Voix allows us to eavesdrop as the agony of love lost is fully illuminated in a spotlight shone on a single human heart. In her VO mainstage debut, soprano Jessica E. Jones performs the role of Elle. Sung in French with English supertitles.

Gianni Schicchi – Giacomo Puccini
Is true love even possible? In this case, yes—as long as you are willing to pose as a dead guy and falsify some documents to smooth the way. But, of course, when has the path of true love ever been smooth, much less with a will in the mix. Gianni Schicchi treats audiences to twists, turns and more than a few laughs along the way, and includes one of Puccini’s most beloved and breathtaking arias: “O mio babbino caro” (Google it and see!). Troy Cook sings the title role, Benjamin Werley the role of Rinuccio, and Jessica E. Jones returns to the evening’s stage to play Rinuccio’s love interest, Lauretta. Sung in Italian with English supertitles.
DOUBLE BILL: Norfolk – FEB 5, 7 & 9, 2021  |  Fairfax – FEB 13 & 14, 2021  |  Richmond – FEB 19 & 21, 2021

The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) – W.A. Mozart
Just the kind of mad and frantic bedroom farce of which guilty (and not-so-guilty) pleasures are made. Full of scheming and wooing, flirting and folly, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro’s joyful and absurd twists pile the truly outrageous on top of the joyfully scandalous to provide what we all wish for—the very happiest of endings. Driven by the music of Mozart at his most spirited in collaboration with his entrusted librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Figaro promises captivating performances that will leave you walking on air. Figaro will welcome esteemed Stage Director Lawrence Edelson to the VO stage, just as the company welcomes back, as Count Almaviva, bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba—Raimondo in the VO’s 2018 production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Making their VO mainstage debuts are Argentinian bass-baritone Federico De Michelis as Figaro and Vanessa Becerra as Susanna. Sung in Italian with English Supertitles. 
Norfolk – MAR 12, 14 & 16, 2021   |   Fairfax – MAR 20 & 21, 2021  |  Richmond – MAR 26 & 28, 2021 

The Pirates of Penzance – W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
A young apprentice pirate with no stomach for a future of piracy is due to be released from his required service on his twenty-first birthday… Trouble is, fate might just intervene with the plan. With his newly found sweetheart, a long-winded but well-intentioned father, and a Pirate King boss with his own merry band of buccaneers, Pirates presents a timeless comedic romp. Hijinks and hilarity don’t miss a beat, and love works to win the day. Tenor David Blalock (Frederic) and soprano Jeni Houser (Mabel)—both Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists Program alumni—headline the cast for the production. Sung in English with English supertitles.
Norfolk – APR 16, 18 & 20, 2021  |  Richmond – APR 23 & 25, 2020 

Subscription Information
Subscription tickets for all 3 productions are on sale now for performances in Norfolk and Richmond starting as low as $56.25. Subscriptions for performances at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts will go on sale later this fall. Subscription tickets and ticket information at:

The Edythe C. and
Stanley L. Harrison
Opera House 
George Mason University’s 
Center for the Arts
Fairfax, VA 
The Carpenter Theatre
at  Dominion Energy Center 
Richmond, VA 

About Virginia Opera 
Virginia Opera Association, Inc., was founded in 1974, 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. Mainstage performances in three markets across the Commonwealth reach nearly 50,000 attendees annually. 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 state as well as to the world of opera. For tickets and information visit vaopera.org or call 866.673.7282.