Saturday, February 10, 2018

Some Changes at Santa Fe Opera

CROSBY THEATER, courtesy Santa Fe Opera

I've got press releases in hand from Santa Fe Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, covering not quite the same ground.

Robert K. Meya succeeds Charles MacKay as General Director of Santa Fe Opera, effective October 1, 2018. That's after the end of the 2018 summer season.

Meya has been Director of External Affairs for Santa Fe since March, 2012.

Here's the interesting part: Meya has named Chief Conductor Harry Bicket to the position of Music Director, and further, named Alexander Neef, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, to the position of Artistic Director of the Santa Fe Opera. Neef will not be leaving the CoC.

From the Santa Fe press release:
In what we view as a bold and creative approach, Robert has named Alexander Neef Santa Fe Opera's first Artistic Director and Harry Bicket as Music Director, both positions effective October 1, 2018. Alexander, who will continue his current role as General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, will ensure the highest possible standard of excellence in all aspects of Santa Fe Opera's artistic operations. Maestro Bicket, the Opera's Chief Conductor since 2013 and Artistic Director of The English Concert, will work with the General Director and Artistic Director to develop the long-term repertory plan for the Opera.
This is...unusual. Santa Fe has a short, summer-festival season of five operas, and nobody who has been to the opera there could possible complain about the artistic standards. The company has an excellent leader on the musical side in Bicket, their repertory has been interesting, their casting strong, and their choice of directors and designers very, very good.

As I said to a friend:
  • Why does Santa Fe need or thinks it needs an artistic director in addition to the general director (chief executive) and chief conductor (now music director)? Does the new general director have no artistic planning experience? Their seasons have seemed well planned to me, and I've been following the company for ten years. Opera companies and orchestras generally have someone on board called the artistic administrator, whose job it is to work with the MD and GD on long-range artistic planning. It's generally not a very out-front job. How is this job going to differ from that? 
  • How does the general director of a company comparable in size to Santa Fe find the time to take on being artistic director of another company? I mean, we've seen the stupidity of music directors with dual appointments for a long time now, as if there is a lack of talent and as if one person can really do an adequate job with his attention divided between two organizations (I'm look at you, James Levine, and you, Andris Nelsons, and you Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and goodness knows how many other conductors). Are executives getting into this too?
An article by James Keller in the Santa Fe New Mexican provides some answers:
The Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Opera voted Friday morning to appoint Robert K. Meya as the company's next general director beginning Oct. 1, and to divide top management responsibilities among three individuals. Meya's appointment represents a promotion from within the organization’s ranks.

Meya, 44, joined Santa Fe Opera in March 2012 and has served since then as its director of external affairs, principally overseeing fundraising and development. In that capacity, he has successfully boosted SFO's fundraising levels from $6.6 million in 2012 to $9.4 million in 2017, and he carried out a $45-million capital campaign to remodel backstage and front-of-house sections of the Crosby Theatre.
So Meya is primarily a business / administrative person; in this context, having an artistic director does make sense. Read the Keller article for full details.


Alex Ross said...

I expect there will be co-productions. And given all the interesting stuff CoC does, that's good news. Neef is a smart man.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Alex!