Maestro Valéry Ryvkin, 1960-2020

The Opera Santa Barbara family mourns the unexpected loss of our beloved Maestro Valéry Ryvkin, our Artistic Director and Principal Conductor from 1999 until 2008.

Valéry was not only a consummate musician and terrific conductor, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a human being of rare sincerity and warmth. He was universally loved by singers, orchestra musicians, patrons, and donors. For ten years he was the enthusiastic, affable face of our young organization, continuously creating new opera fans in our community, and building musical standards of which we continue to be proud of today. He was taken from us way too soon and we will miss him.

We send our love to his wife Victoria and daughter Amanda, and we pledge to continue our work inspired by his high artistic standards and deep humanity.

Opera Santa Barbara


Valéry was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. He was generous with his time, his talent and with his compassion and his laughter. We first met in 1994, when he was on staff at the Music Academy. As OSB was contemplating its first fully professional opera, Valéry was the first choice for our conductor. His tenure at OSB was long and filled with triumphs. It was wonderful to have him back with us for our first Russian opera and our 25th Anniversary Gala just a year ago. Opera Santa Barbara will miss him tremendously and I mourn for the loss of my friend.

– Joan Rutkowski
Opera SB Board President

It is truly difficult for me to express the deep sadness that both Bob and I feel over the loss of this extraordinary man, longtime cherished friend and unbelievable musical talent. All who were fortunate enough to know him will remember his infectious smile and his enthusiasm for life and music. We send our love to those who meant the most to him: Vicky, Amanda, Alexander, and Klybie too. I am so happy that he was a huge part of our lives for so many years. The memories will live on. Rest in peace, dear Valéry.

Sandra Urquhart
Past Opera SB Board President

I am beyond saddened to hear of Valéry’s passing. I worked with Valéry for many years at Opera Santa Barbara. He was the most passionate and prepared artistic director I have ever worked with. He lived and breathed opera. He knew the scores backwards and forwards. He knew how to ask the musicians for exactly the kind of sound he needed to support the action and voices on the stage in such a beautiful and respectful way. He shared his passion for opera with us and it was infectious. Performing with him was such a treat. He was so totally focused on the moment and his conducting reflected the beauty and passion he felt for this music. He increased my love of this art form exponentially. He will be forever missed.

– Jacqueline Greenshields
Cellist, Opera Santa Barbara

What I loved most about Valéry was his enthusiasm. He was unabashedly joyful about opera, music, and life!  The more enthused he got on a subject, the more pronounced his accent seemed to get (and everything sounds so much more exciting with a Russian accent), and the more excited I became. The same was true when he was on the podium. He would become enraptured with the score and performers, and audiences could feel it. Valéry inspired me. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with him, and to bring attention to the company’s productions.

– Julia McHugh
OSB public relations consultant 2006 – 2009

I was saddened to hear the news, far too young for us to lose such a talent. I had the privilege of hosting Valéry and his family who were all a joy to have in the house. They were all so considerate.
My condolences to the family, Maestro you will be missed. Rest in Peace.
– Chris Lancashire

If you would like to leave a tribute, please email [email protected]

L'Elisir d'Amore, March 2016, Photo by David Bazemore