15 February 2017
Fort Worth Opera Fires Longtime General Director Darren K. Woods
DARREN K. WOODS, the longtime general director of Fort Worth Opera, was fired by the company on Monday, with FWO’s chairman, Mike Martinez, telling Fort Worth’s Star-Telegram that the company hopes to find a leader that would “focus more on business and management ... to be creative with the fundraising and development aspect.”
Woods’ abrupt dismissal from the North Texas company amounted to a fairly shocking move in an industry rooted both in advance planning and discretion surrounding details of administrators' contracts and tenures. The Star-Telegram reports that Woods and the board had differences of opinion on the opera’s artistic direction, though it appears that fiscal matters strongly played into the company's decision.
“We just didn’t feel Darren could provide us with that leadership from [the fundraising and development] aspect,” Martinez is quoted as telling the Star-Telegram. Martinez reportedly added that one of the board’s goals was to increase the number of productions presented each season by the company. "Darren has fantastic ability to put wonderful productions onstage," Martinez told the Dallas News. "That is his strong suit. To be able to focus on development, business management, fundraising beyond Tarrant Country or North Texas—we just need somebody else in that regard."
In 2007, Woods converted the company, which had been operating on fall/winter season, to a summer festival format. Additionally, Under Woods' tenure the company has garnered national attention for presenting presented a number of innovative, new works, including Kevin Putts’ Silent Night, Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, Peter Eötvös's Angels in America, Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox and David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s Dog Days. In 2016, the company's seventieth-anniversary season, Fort Worth presented the world premiere of Little and Vavrek's JFK. The Star-Telegram reports that the world premiere of JFK resulted in a significant budgetary shortfall of nearly $675,000 for that season until FWO was able to raise $500,000 in three months through the help of an anonymous matching donor. JFK reportedly cost the company $1.3 million dollars to produce, and raised Fort Worth Opera’s annual budget to $5.2 million from a budget that had ranged from $4.5 million to $4.7 million.
“I think it’s best I go a different direction with my life,” Woods is quoted as telling the newspaper. “I have wanted to go into a little bit different direction where I am dealing more with new music, librettists, singers […].”
A statement issued today by the company read: “The new economic times within which we find ourselves, present unique challenges that call for a fresh perspective and an innovative approach to an aging business model. After months of discussion, the Board of Directors has decided the best thing for all parties is to build on the artistic foundation we have forged together while allowing each of us to grow and meet new challenges.”
While the company intends to immediately begin a national search process for a new general director, Fort Worth Opera reportedly has its seasons planned through 2020. Woods, who also serves as the artistic director of New York’s Seagle Music Colony, told the Star-Telegram that he hopes to spend more time at that organization.
More information can be found at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth Opera, Dallas News and the Opera News Archives (here and here).
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