22 September 2017

Timothy O'Leary, General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Named as Next General Director of Washington National Opera

News Tim OLeary OTSL WNO 917

TIMOTHY O'LEARY, who has served as general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis since 2008, was named today as the new general director of Washington National Opera

The announcement — made today by WNO board president Robert Downing, board chairman Ellen Berelson and Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center — amounts to something of a seismic shock in the American opera industry. O'Leary's work at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has helped to establish the company as one of the most important opera festivals in the United States, and his decade-long tenure there has been notable for its efforts in presenting innovative programming and commissioning new works, as well for the festival's significant financial growth.

O'Leary's appointment in Washington will  take effect on July 1, 2018, and he intends to relocate with his family to the area prior to the start of WNO's 2018-19 season, the company announced. In his new position, O'Leary will provide strategic and operational oversight of the entire company, working in close collaboration with the WNO board of directors and alongside artistic director Francesca Zambello, with whom he will ensure that WNO achieves the highest artistic standards in its work onstage and throughout the community. As part of his appointment, O'Leary will also serve as a member of the Kennedy Center’s senior leadership team, and will explore additional opportunities for WNO to expand its partnership with the Center to serve local, national and international audiences. 

Under O'Leary's leadership, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis launched its New Works, Bold Voices initiative, which has presented the world-premieres of new American operas drawing inspiration from a diverse range of influences and portraying modern stories. As part of the effort, the company has presented Terence Blanchard's "opera in jazz," Champion; Ricky Ian Gordon's 27; and Jack Perla's Shalimar the Clown. Financially, since O'Leary took office in 2008, OTSL's endowment has doubled from $16.5 million to $33 million, and annual contributions have grown by more than 46% during the same period, and currently exceed $6 million. In addition to his role at OTSL, O'Leary also serves as chairman of the board of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera. O'Leary's experience includes an apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, graduate studies in Theater Management at Columbia University, and a degree in English from Dartmouth College. Before joining Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, O'Leary served as part of the management team at New York City Opera under general and artistic Director Paul Kellogg; he was also the first managing director of Gotham Chamber Opera. As an assistant stage director, he worked at New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and other companies. He has also completed National Arts Strategies’ “Chief Executive Program,” which included training at the business schools of the University of Michigan and Harvard University.

“It is a privilege to join the Washington National Opera and this tremendous team,” O’Leary said in a statement issued today by WNO. “I am excited, honored, and deeply grateful to the WNO board, to the Kennedy Center and Deborah Rutter, and to the whole WNO community. I am also absolutely thrilled to collaborate with Francesca Zambello. Francesca is one of the artists I admire most in this world—because of her inspiring, humane, and brilliant work. Thanks to the WNO’s amazing staff, Francesca’s artistic vision, the company’s devoted board, its generous family of supporters, and the invaluable partnership of the Kennedy Center, we have the opportunity to build on the storied WNO past to help shape the future of opera in the 21st century.”

“I have known Timothy for over 20 years, dating back to our time working together at New York City Opera,” Zambello. “Since then, I have watched proudly as he has risen as a leader in our industry and marveled at his accomplishments in St. Louis and with Opera America. His patient demeanor, diplomatic skills, and deep expertise of the American opera scene are among the reasons I knew he was the right person for the WNO position. I am thrilled to have him as my leadership partner for the WNO’s future.”

O'Leary succeeds Michael Mael, who departed Washington National Opera in June after having served for six years as the company's executive director following three years as WNO's chief financial and chief operating officer. Mael is credited with overseeing Washington National Opera during its 2011 merger with Kennedy Center, which is thought to have brought WNO away from the brink of bankruptcy; at the time, the company was reportedly carrying debts of nearly $12 million. Plácido Domingo was appointed as the company's artistic director in 1996 and later became its general director; he opted not to renew his contract with his company in 2011. 

“Timothy’s impressive stewardship of OTSL has been a model of visionary and inspired management of a modern America opera company,” said Robert Downing, president of WNO's board of trustees. “His demonstrated success in connecting with local communities and audiences while simultaneously setting the agenda on a national stage, also apparent with his chairmanship of Opera America, are a perfect fit with the future strategic direction of the WNO and the Kennedy Center.” spacer 

More information can be found at Washington National Opera  

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