14 July 2017

Fort Worth Opera Names Tuomas Hiltunen, Barenboim-Said Foundation Administrator, as its New General Director

FORT WORTH OPERA announced that Tuomas Hiltunen, 45, an actor, educator and administrator who previously served as the director of the Barenboim-Said Foundation, has been named as the company's new general director. 

Hiltunen's appointment follows last February's abrupt dismissal of Fort Worth Opera's longtime general director Darren K. Woods, and the company's recent creation of its FWOpera National Artistic Council, an advisory group helmed by Plácido Domingo that's meant to provide support and artistic guidance to the company on a national level. 

In addition to Hiltunen's appointment, the company announced that Joe Illick, Fort Worth Opera's music director since 2002, had been promoted to the position of artistic director. 

“I am honored to be part of the Fort Worth community and Fort Worth Opera. I would like to thank the association for giving me a chance to lead this fine organization in its mission toward excellence,” said Hiltunen in a statement issued today by the company. “I am looking forward to sharing thrilling experiences of music and theater with the broader Fort Worth community, and to bringing in new and expanded audiences to share our passion for this ever-changing art form.”

A native of Finland, Hiltunen received training at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama before being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study Columbia University. He subsequently became a lecturer at Barnard College and later joined Columbia University as the director of the Finnish Studies Program, where he taught Finnish language and culture courses. His CV includes work as a performer in theater, opera, concerts, television and film in Finland, England and the United States. His appointment at Fort Worth marks the first time that Hiltunen will lead an opera company.

During his time at the Barenboim-Said Foundation, Hiltunen reportedly played a significant role in the growth of the Foundation's endowment, the advancement of its brand and the execution of its strategic plans. Established in 2004 by Argentine-Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American intellectual and professor Edward Said, the Foundation works to promote the spirit of peace, dialogue and reconciliation through music in Andalusia, the Palestinian territories and other Middle Eastern Countries. Through the foundation, Barenboim created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, in which young Israeli and Palestinian musicians perform and tour together. 

“Tuomas is a true leader who will bring his consummate skills to help us achieve financial stability, along with his artistic drive, passion, and the vision to guide Fort Worth Opera through the next decade," said Mike Martinez, chairman of Fort Worth Opera's board of directors.

At the time of Darren Woods' dismissal from Fort Worth Opera last February, the company reportedly had planned its seasons through 2020. In 2007, Woods sixteen-year tenure was notable for its conversion of the company to a summer festival format from a fall/winter season; his tenure was also marked by the presentation of a number of innovative new works such as 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, which reportedly resulted in a significant budgetary shortfall of nearly $675,000 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 previously ranged from $4.5 million to $4.7 million.  

The 2018 Fort Worth Opera festival is slated to include mainstage performances of Das Rheingold, Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires and Donizetti's Don Pasqualespacer 

More information can be found at Fort Worth Opera.

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