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.