On every level, he was an integral presence behind the scenes
What has been a brilliant Winter Festival at the Sarasota Opera was eclipsed Tuesday, Feb. 18, with the sudden death of Greg Trupiano, the opera’s director of artistic administration, at the age of 64.
He never sang a note for the opera, but for over 30 years, Trupiano played a key role in making the Sarasota Opera what it is.
“Many of us find it hard to envision a Sarasota Opera without Greg,” says Richard Russell, Sarasota Opera executive director.
Indeed, most have not known it without him. Trupiano had been with Sarasota Opera since 1987.
In the course of his career, Trupiano also worked with the New York City Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, San Diego Opera, Bel Canto Opera in Chicago and American Opera Projects in Brooklyn, N.Y. He served as a consultant for the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York; Dicapo Opera Theater in New York City; and Encompass Music Theater in Brooklyn.
Russell, who had known Trupiano for 31 years and considered him one of his best friends, says Trupiano had performed the duties of director of artistic administration for Sarasota Opera before such a title existed in the opera world, but he’d been doing them there for at least 25 years.
And Trupianio’s involvement went beyond the usual job description anyway, Russell says. “His impact on every aspect of the organization was immense.”
Trupiano was responsible for arranging auditions and contracting performers. He also arranged the rehearsal schedules — no small task in a house that rehearses four operas simultaneously, Russell says.
Trupiano was also the go-to person for the artists to see to their needs while they were in town.
His creative instincts and operatic knowledge were often called upon. Trupiano scouted singers and directors. He would sit in on rehearsals and add his input.
He also had a hand in deciding the season schedule every year, considering the creative and logistical requirements of each show.
While he was vital behind the scenes, Trupiano was just as comfortable in the front of the house, Russell says, sharing a mutual passion for opera with patrons and donors. He had a real knack for enhancing a sense of an opera community.
“I can't tell you how many conversations here at Sarasota Opera ended with the words, ‘Ask Greg,’ because he had all the answers,” Russell says. “He was the one who coordinated everyone else.”
Trupiano took that role as the answer man seriously, and he was extremely generous, Russell says. Anyone could come to him for simple information or more personal mentoring.
“He touched the lives of many in a positive and affirming way,” Russell says.
Except during Season, Trupiano was a lifelong Brooklyn boy. He was a frequent lecturer on opera, and on his other great artistic passion, the poet Walt Whitman.
In Brooklyn, Trupiano was the founder and artistic director of the Walt Whitman Project, an organization that produces presentations based on Whitman’s works.
“There were three things, I think, that drew Greg to Whitman,” Russell says. First is the Brooklyn connection. Whitman spent many years there, as well.
“Second, Greg was very interested in [LGBTQ] issues, and Whitman was gay,” Russell says “And thirdly, that Whitman was a passionate opera lover.”
Trupiano is survived by Lon Black, his partner of 38 years; his sister, Marian Trupiano; and his brother, Larry Trupiano, all of Brooklyn.