21 August 2007

Dean Williamson Named as Opera Cleveland's New Artistic Director

Opera Cleveland has announced that Dean Williamson, the former music director of Washington East Opera and a regional judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, has been appointed as the Ohio company's new artistic director, with plans for him to assume office in January 2008.

The announcement, made today by Peter L. Rubin, president of Opera Cleveland's board of trustees, and Jeff Sodowsky, the company's executive director, effectively fills the administrative gap left open following the resignation of artistic director Leon Major, who left the company at the end of its 2006-07 season. At the time of his departure, Major had only served one-third of the three-year tenure specified in his original contract. For his part, Major assumed the company's artistic directorship following the August 2006 resignation of Jonathan Field, previously artistic director of Lyric Opera Cleveland; that company merged with Cleveland Opera in April 2006 to form Opera Cleveland.

In addition to Sodowsky, Williamson joins an administrative team that includes principal conductor Richard Buckley, who was appointed to the Opera in July 2006.

"Dean Williamson stood out among an international pool of candidates," Sodowsky is quoted as saying in a press release issued by the company. "His experience as a producer paired with his collaborative reputation at large and regional-sized opera companies and his high regard with the Metropolitan Opera vocal competition make him an excellent choice. This history all contributes to his strength for achieving the responsibilities of Opera Cleveland's Artistic Director, which will range from identifying repertoire to selecting the creative teams and artists that will realize the productions"

In addition to his post at Washington East Opera, Williamson previously served as artistic director of the Viva Voce Song Recital Series with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, and for twelve years worked as a principal coach and pianist at Seattle Opera. He recently made his Seattle Opera mainstage debut conducting performances of Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Turn of the Screw. Additional recent engagements include performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Carmen at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Così fan Tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro with the Seattle Opera's young artists program; Don Pasquale with San Francisco Opera's Merola program; Die Zauberflöte at Opera Colorado; L'Italiana in Algeria at Boston Lyric Opera; and Madama Butterfly with Chautauqua Opera.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to create brilliant and theatrical opera onstage in Cleveland," said Williamson. "It's a city with dual traditions of classic and experimental opera, and I want to combine those in one company. By bringing together the most compelling singing actors, directors and beautiful music-making, we can produce visceral, entertaining and poignant opera."

More information can be found at Opera Cleveland, and the OPERA NEWS Archives (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).

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