Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL, October 26, 2023 — The Board of Directors of Florida Grand Opera has announced that Maria Todaro will serve as Interim General Director and will helm the company throughout its 2023–24 Season.
Todaro is the co-founder and General Director of the Hudson Valley International Festival of the Voice. Her arts administration bona fides are enhanced by over thirty years’ experience as a stage director, conductor, librettist, and operatic mezzo-soprano.
“The board and staff of Florida Grand Opera is thrilled to welcome Maria Todaro as our Interim General Director,” said Per-Olof Lööf, President of the FGO Board of Directors. “Her vision of what is possible in opera and her passion for the art form is infectious. It was obvious to us that she is the right person to build on the legacy of Susan T. Danis and guide our beloved opera throughout this season. With her well-established background in so many different aspects of the opera industry, we know Maria’s talent and experience will generate the same admiration throughout the South Florida community that it has in the supporters and stakeholders of Florida Grand Opera.”
Todaro‘s background in opera commenced at birth and has continued throughout her life. She is the daughter of Italian opera singer Jose Todaro and Brazilian mezzo-soprano Maria-Helena de Oliveira. Her grandmother, Helena de Oliveira, headed the International Vocal and Piano Competition of Rio de Janeiro. She is married to international baritone Louis Otey, whom she met when they shared a singing engagement. She is a citizen of the US, France, and Italy, and has spent a significant amount of time in Brazil.
She began her professional life in opera as a mezzo-soprano and entrepreneur, founding the production company Arteodor in France and later embarking on a stage directing career. She has directed 23 productions for companies such as Minnesota Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Hawaii Opera Theater. Over a span of ten years, Todaro has also staged 16 original productions. She collaborated as librettist with composer Mitch Bach to write an opera based on The Three Musketeers.
In 2009, Todaro co-founded the Hudson Valley International Festival of The Voice (formerly the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice) and took the helm as General Director. She created a backstage apprenticeship program, oversaw the purchase of the organization’s buildings, and during the COVID-19 lockdown, pioneered the United States’ first live drive-in opera performance in New York, and later championed opera in Naples, FL to a sold-out audience. She also introduced virtual reality technology to the Hudson Valley International Festival of the Voice (HVIFV) to create a re-imagined and well-received Tosca that was available locally as a live, drive-in performance and worldwide as a digital one. Opera UK noted, “Todaro’s concept worked because she stayed true to the drama at its core.” Under her leadership, the festival is preparing to launch an anti-human trafficking awareness program through the arts.
Todaro’s specialties as an arts administrator include audience development and community outreach. Under her leadership, FOV regularly attracts 7,000–10,000 visitors to a three-day festival in a remote location, reinvigorating tourism and the local economy. One of her first acts as General Director was to recruit locals of all ages and backgrounds to form a chorus, creating a strong and lasting bond between the community and the Festival which continues to this day. The volunteer chorus has even produced its own professional soloists, young people who chose to pursue music professionally after enjoying the community experience.
“I am truly humbled to have been entrusted with the responsibility of advancing Florida Grand Opera,” says Todaro. “My primary goal is to wholeheartedly align with the vision of our esteemed board of directors and to build upon the remarkable achievements of my predecessors as we embark on an exciting new phase of growth, with the aim of increasing our influence and relevance within our community. In a world often marked by crises and despair, FGO’s role remains of paramount importance, introducing as many individuals as possible to the transformative and healing power of opera. I am immensely grateful for the warm reception I have received from our dedicated staff, who are not just seasoned administrators. Many are also passionate artists deeply committed to our art form. I eagerly anticipate the upcoming premiere of La traviata on November 11th and the opportunity to connect with the South Florida community as we kick off the 2023–24 season.”
Todaro’s awards and recognition include the 2017 HealthAlliance Foundation Tulip Award as the Best Community Organization for enhancing wellness and healing in the Hudson Valley community, the 2016 Community Award from Rotary International in Palermo, Sicily; the 2014 YWCA Cultural Woman of the Year Award, and the 2012 Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce Best Cultural Event of the Year for the Hudson Valley Festival.
Florida Grand Opera produces classic grand opera, contemporary work, and new commissions in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Founded in 1941 as the Opera Guild of Greater Miami by Arturo Di Filippi, it merged with the Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale in 1994. FGO is the oldest producing arts organization in the state of Florida and the seventh-oldest opera company in the United States. Its Florida Grand Opera Studio trains the opera stars of tomorrow, whose work supporting the world-class artists starring on FGO’s stages and performing in the community brings some of the greatest music ever composed to all of South Florida. Its 2023–24 season takes place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, and features Giuseppe Verdi’sLa traviata, Ruggero Leoncavallo’sI pagliacci, and Giacomo Puccini’sLa bohème. All FGO productions feature projected translations in English and Spanish. For more information, please visit fgo.org.
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