The New Orleans Opera Association welcomes nominations and applications for the position of General Director. Robert Lyall, who has served as General and Artistic Director for the past 22 years, will step down as General Director at the end of the 2019-20 season. He will continue in the role of Artistic Director through the 2020-21 season.
When the New Orleans Opera Association organized early in 1943, the new company was building on a rich tradition of opera presentations that extended as far back as 1796. New Orleans was a frequent and favorite stop for national tours of opera troupes. The city’s theatres, both large and small, were excellent venues for ambitious impresarios to mount productions and reach new and very welcoming audiences.
During the nineteenth century, New Orleans was home to three opera houses that offered French, Italian, and German opera respectively. The most famous theatre, the French Opera House, presented opera from 1859 until it burned in 1919. While New Orleans gave the first American performances of many Italian operas by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti, the city was best known for introducing American audiences to French opera, most notably the works of Gounod, Massenet, and Meyerbeer. Records show that in the mid-nineteenth century, the three operas most frequently produced in New Orleans were Les Huguenots, Le Prophete, and La Favorita. German opera arrived by the late 1800’s, at first sung in Italian. By the end of the century, New Orleans audiences had experienced performances of the major Wagnerian operas, including the Ring Cycle.
Although visits by touring artists and ensembles continued well into the twentieth century, the New Orleans Opera Association was founded on the belief that New Orleans needed a permanent opera company with a regular schedule of performances. The New Orleans Opera, founded in 1943, was first led by German conductor Walter Herbert, then by the Italian conductor Renato Cellini. American impresario and stage director Arthur Cozenza led the Company from 1970 to 1997 and was succeeded as General Director by conductor Robert Lyall. In 1973, after many years at the Municipal Auditorium, the New Orleans Opera moved to a new 2,300-seat auditorium, now named the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for Performing Arts, where it continues to perform today.
From the outset, the New Orleans Opera produced a broad repertoire of opera by composers who were already well-known to opera lovers while introducing them to new works by contemporary composers. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Company’s roster included internationally acclaimed singers such as Montserrat Caballe, Ezio Pinza, Joan Sutherland, Eleanor Steber, Placido Domingo, and Norman Treigle. Placido Domingo led an all-star cast that performed for thousands in the Smoothie King arena in March 2006 to support recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. The Company continues to bring major artists to New Orleans audiences, in recent years including Sondra Radvanovsky, Lisette Oropesa, Susan Graham, Paul Groves, Greer Grimsley, and Bryan Hymel.
The New Orleans Opera Association has excited local opera audiences with productions and educational programs of the highest artistic quality for more than 75 years. In addition to the standard repertoire, the Company has had great success with new works such as Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Terrence Blanchard’s Champion. Begun in 2017, the Detour Chamber Opera Series, performed in alternative venues, has introduced audiences to Laura Kaminsky’s As One, Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires and Laura Auerbach’s The Blind. New Orleans Opera’s repertoire has also included such musical theatre masterpieces as West Side Story and Sweeney Todd as well as rarely performed works such as Rameau’s Pygmalion and Britten’s Noah’s Flood.
The 2019-2020 Season includes three main-stage productions – Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The Company’s series of chamber opera for the current season includes two contemporary works – The Falling and the Rising, a collaboration by members of the U.S. Army Field Band and the creative team of Zach Redler, composer, and Jerre Dye, librettist; and Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by composer Daniel Schnyder and librettist Bridgette A. Wimberly. In addition, the Company has expanded its array of education programs that introduce opera to audiences of all ages in the schools and throughout the community.
The New Orleans Opera is governed by a 45-member Board of Directors. The operating budget is $3 million, and there is a full-time staff of ten. The Company receives support from the volunteer members of the Women’s Guild, the Sylvain Society, and the Opera Club. The New Orleans Opera operates the H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio, one of the foremost rental studios of opera scenery and properties in the country, maintains an inventory of 20 opera productions for both large and small venues, and includes a design studio that has full carpentry and metal shops, a paint deck, and a fully equipped sewing room.
In conjunction with its 75th Anniversary, the New Orleans Opera developed a strategic plan to guide its future goals to bring opera to significantly expanded audiences in venues throughout the city; provide educational opportunities to all through both traditional and innovative approaches; and contribute greatly to the life and well-being of the broader New Orleans community. The next General Director will have the opportunity to build from the framework of this plan within a city whose long, deep, and rich connection to opera are unparalleled in America.
The next General Director will join a strong and resilient community that celebrates its cultural heritage and diversity. The General Director will have a mandate from the Board to expand the reach of the New Orleans Opera throughout the community, to embrace underserved populations, to nurture young talent, and to realize the Company’s vision “to connect all people with the joy of opera.”
The General Director of the New Orleans Opera is the Company’s chief executive and artistic officer, responsible and accountable to the Board of Directors. The General Director provides the leadership and vision that allow the New Orleans Opera to realize its mission and achieve its goals for artistic excellence, financial stability, robust fundraising, and broad community engagement. The General Director oversees all aspects of the Company’s operations, including: artistic administration; operations and production; budgeting and financial management; development; marketing and public relations; advocacy; education; and human resource management.
The General Director sets and realizes an exciting and compelling artistic vision for the Company. S/he determines repertoire, assembles production teams, identifies casts, and engages artistic personnel. S/he ensures that the Company achieves and maintains the highest possible standards of artistic excellence with available financial resources. The General Director provides leadership for the Company’s education programs and community engagement activities. S/he fosters an environment that allows creative artists to do their best work.
The General Director supports the Board of Directors in its governance role and works closely with the Board President in recruiting talented volunteers to an active and energized Board. S/he provides support and impetus to the fundraising efforts of the Board. S/he ensures that the Board has the timely and accurate information for its decision-making.
The General Director leads, inspires, and motivates staff in a workplace that encourages collaboration and teamwork. S/he mentors and develops talent within the organization. S/he ensures strong communication among all the Company’s stakeholders. The General Director supports the efforts of the Opera’s Women’s Guild and other support groups on behalf of the New Orleans Opera.
The General Director leads the fundraising efforts of the New Orleans Opera and invests significant time and energy in the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of donors. S/he provides support and guidance to the fundraising efforts of Board members and volunteers. The General Director establishes and maintains positive and productive working relationships with the New Orleans Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts as well as major corporate, foundation, and individual funders.
The General Director is the visible representative of the New Orleans Opera throughout the community. S/he actively pursues opportunities for partnerships and collaborations with arts, educational, cultural, social, and other organizations. S/he serves as spokesperson for the Company with print, broadcast, and social media. The General Director strives to heighten awareness about the New Orleans Opera throughout the community, the state, and the region, while raising the profile of the Company nationally.
The successful candidate will be a visionary, creative, and energetic leader with a proven collaborative approach to engaging with the Board, staff, and community stakeholders.
S/he will be experienced and knowledgeable about all aspects of opera repertoire, artists, and production. S/he will have the strength of personality to unite both volunteer and professional members of the Company behind a shared vision for the New Orleans Opera.
The successful candidate will have a passionate belief in the value and importance of opera as an art form and as a vital community asset. S/he will be cognizant of present-day challenges to the financial viability of professional opera companies and their ability to sustain and grow audiences. S/he will have the imagination, flexibility, and resilience to address challenges and find innovative ways to attract new audiences and new sources of financial support.
The successful candidate will be a skilled manager who inspires and empowers artists, administrative staff, Board members, and volunteers to do their best work. S/he will be able to develop and maintain an environment that allows the Company to achieve a consistently high standard of artistic excellence. The successful candidate will be a strategic thinker who leads the Company in developing short- and long-term operating plans to ensure that the New Orleans Opera achieves its income and expense goals. S/he will have excellent budgeting and financial management skills.
The successful candidate will be a skilled fundraiser with a deep respect for philanthropy. S/he will enjoy fundraising and will be willing to devote substantial time and effort to the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of donors, and to providing excellent stewardship of gifts. The successful candidate will be able to write and speak persuasively about the importance of opera in general and the New Orleans Opera in particular.
The successful candidate will welcome the opportunity to make a home in New Orleans and to take an active role in the community. The ideal candidate will share an interest and enthusiasm for the richness of New Orleans culture, including centuries of presenting and producing opera; the musical traditions of jazz and ragtime; excellence in the culinary arts; Creole history and tradition; the annual Mardi Gras festivities; and the triumphs of the Saints and the Pelicans.
Compensation, including benefits, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.
New Orleans Opera is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in all facets of the organization and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or national origin.
Please submit a cover letter that describes your specific interest in New Orleans Opera and your qualifications for the position. Send with a resume and salary expectations. Please also include the names of several references. All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be contacted without the applicant’s agreement. Electronic submissions are requested.
Please send materials to:
New Orleans Opera – General Director
c/o Catherine French Group
2500 Q Street, NW, Suite 623
Washington, DC 20007
MS Word or Adobe Acrobat attachments only, please
Additional Salary Information: Compensation, including benefits, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.
About New Orleans Opera
Formed in 1998, the Catherine French Group works with symphony orchestras, opera companies, performing arts presenters, music festivals, schools of music, and other music and arts organizations as they recruit chief executives, senior management, and artistic personnel. The Catherine French Group is based in Washington, DC. Catherine French is founder and principal. Musician, administrator, and educator Christopher Wingert joined CFG in 2005 and is Managing Director. Henry Fogel, former CEO of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and former Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, collaborates on projects that have a special focus on music directors and artistic directors.