Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Who's Next?


Photo by me, June, 2006

Last fall, David Gockley officially announced that he'd be leaving San Francisco Opera at the end of the 2015-16 season, that is, in about 18 months. A few weeks ago, Joshua Kosman wrote about the search process and what the search committee might look for in a new general director. It is a really good article, covering the major issues locally and nationally and including the artistic and administrative aspects of running a big company. 

I agree with him that Francesca Zambello looks like the presumptive front-runner, but I'll be the first to go out on a limb and speculate that she won't be the next general director. The search committee may well try to find a candidate who already has the financial, fund-raising, and administrative expertise that Gockley brought to the job, given the difficulties of keeping an opera company on a sound financial footing. 

I believe that would put Zambello out of the running. Glimmerglass is a much smaller operation, with four summer productions and an annual budget of around $8 million. Very likely she would have to give up her positions at Glimmerglass and at Washington National Opera (WNO), where she is artistic director. Leading a big company such as SFO would certainly limit her ability to direct as well. It is a full-time job, or job-and-a-half.

I'm doubtful that Patrick Summers would be considered for the job; he has operated strictly on the artistic side and I can't see the board entrusting the whole megillah to him.

Lastly, who is currently running an opera house who might be lured to San Francisco? Not Peter Gelb (I fall over and laugh at the thought; I don't believe the board would want him). Not Anthony Freund of Chicago. Not the folks running LA, Seattle, Houston, or Dallas. Probably not someone from Europe, who might run into the same problems Pamela Rosenberg had.

So I'm going to agree with what Joshua's article says:
But the likelier scenario, according to one well-placed Opera employee, would find the board moving in an unexpected direction, selecting a dark-horse candidate who is not on the radar of observers. 
If so, the board’s choice would be more than simply a hiring decision. It would also be an implicit prediction of where opera in San Francisco is headed — and who is best equipped to face the coming challenges.


Sacto OperaFan said...

I was thinking Christopher Hahn of Pittsburgh Opera - I met him when he was on the Artistic Staff of SFO and thought he was very personable and funny. Pittsburgh might be a little small in comparison to SFO, but he has SFO ties.

The other person I was thinking about is David Devan of Opera Philadelphia. He is committed to producing new opera works and has raised money for their endowment....again on a much smaller scale than SFO, but he has many years of experience.

In the past I have also heard the name of Carol Vaness, one of my favorite sopranos, being considered before Gockley was finally chosen. So not sure how serious that rumor was.

I never understood why they hired Rosenberg instead of Gockley. He worked a small miracle in Houston and has put SFO back on good standing. His casting choices have been stellar and I'm very sad he is retiring. I have met him and thought he was very nice and charming.

John Marcher said...

What about Charles MacKay of Santa Fe Opera?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Darrick, that's an interesting thought about Hahn. I don't know him at all. Success in Pittsburgh plus SFO ties could make him a candidate.

Opera Philadelphia is doing great things just now, and on a small budget, so the same on Devan.

Carol Vaness would make no sense at all. :) I think the board hired Rosenberg because they were excited by her artistic ideas and overlooked or did not realize the ways she was not suited to running a US opera company. Nobody could have known that she would run through money the way she did. Very sad; I liked her programming so much.

Hiring Gockley then would have made more sense. Maybe he did not want to leave Houston at that time or maybe he was not asked.

JM, I looked up MacKay and his resume is impressive. Solid artistic choices and good finances at the companies he has run. So yeah, a real possibility.

Lisa Hirsch said...

A friend mentions in email Matias Tarnopolsky of Cal Performances. He'd be an interesting choice. The programming there has been fantastic, and obviously he is a talented fund-raiser: bringing the VPO and Czech Phil to California must cost a fortune.

Cal Performances doesn't have the union constraints of SFO, of course, and that is probably not something he has a lot of experience with.

Sacto OperaFan said...

Hello Again,

Enjoying all the responses. I had thought of MacKay at Santa Fe. It's a festival, but a major one. They do a lot of opera in those two months. I went a few years back to see Traviata with Dessay and The Letter with Racette. I thought the "house" was absolutely beautiful.

The problem with MacKay is he is rather new to his job and doesn't have a lot of experience. If Gockley had stayed another two or three years, MacKay would be my top pick.

LH: Thanks for your thoughts on Rosenberg. I do agree she had interesting ideas. She announced themes she wanted to use in selecting repertoire. She did bring very interesting opera to SFO during her tenure - St Francis of Assisi probably the most note worthy. However I thought her casting choices were odd. It could be she was just more familiar with singers she used while in Germany. But it seems a lot of SF favorites were not appearing as often during her tenure and a lot of the new "hot" singers did not materialize.

Finally, I do think Rosenberg was most unfortunate to have taken over SFO as we entered the Recession of the 2000s....so it could have just been a perfect storm that sank her. I did not step into the house while she was in charge. I had moved to Sacramento and nothing really enticed me to make the drive down. I am back now that Gockley has taken over and am very happy to be back. We really don't have opera here in the Central Valley.