Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A Warm Welcome to Matthew Shilvock

Photo posted to Twitter by @matthewshilvock
"Same great company. First day in a new office. 
So excited for what lies ahead with my phenomenal colleagues @sfopera"

It's August, which means that Matthew Shilvock is now the General Director of San Francisco Opera, with David Gockley retired and taking the title General Director Emeritus.

I am sure there will be some changes around the opera house; for one thing, I am having considerable difficulty imaging David Gockley posting the photo above, or, in fact, posting to Twitter at all. It's not his style, and I do think that the difference in style is an indicator of generational change at the War Memorial Opera House.

There will be plenty of challenges ahead, because SFO faces the same problems every other large arts organization faces: declining subscription sales, competition from many different forms of the arts and entertainment, the decline of classical music and instrumental instruction in the public schools, the leveling of the cultural playing field, changing interests in philanthropy, and so on. SFO has its own special challenges, which include a grand old opera house that, for example, has essentially no flexible public spaces for audience interaction. And opera is expensive to stage; there's never enough money if you're producing opera at the international level.

On the other hand, there are opportunities. We've had very little German opera in the last few years, owing to the entire company swinging heavily back to Italian opera, between Mr. Gockley's preference for lyrical music, music director Nicola Luisotti's strengths, and, perhaps, donor influence. This is a loss in a company that has a long history of being the first US company to stage many important non-Italian works. And of course there is the huge opportunity represented by Mr. Luisotti's decision to leave the company when his contract expires in 2018. There may be generational change on the musical/artistic as well as administrative/artistic side.

The upcoming season was planned by Mr. Gockley, and I believe so was 2017-18, so it will be some time before Mr. Shilvock's artistic plans fully emerge. Given his musical background, which includes a special interest in the French Baroque, I am looking forward to them! 

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