Thursday, January 22, 2009


Opera Australia has announced, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports, details of its search for artistic leadership for the company which presents 200 mainstage performances a year, employs around 1000, and operates a budget of the order of $70M.

Recently appointed Chairman of the Board, Dr (PhD nuclear physics) Ziggy Switkowski and CEO Adrian Collete have outlined the possibilities for artistic leadership based on 1 of 3 models:

First option is a full time Artistic Director, overseeing artistic, operatic and casting decisions, with or without a chief or principal conductor. Think Moffat Oxenbould.

Second possibility is a Music Director as Artistic Director, someone resident for up to six months of the year, responsible for artistic, operatic and casting decisions. Think Simone Young.

Thirdly, and they use the word 'triumvirate', is the possibility of power sharing, some combination of Music Director, Director of Productions, General Manager. Think Spoilt Broth. Well, that's what I first thought. Listening to Anthony Legge describe the vitality and success of an arrangement like this between Mark Elder, David Pountney and Peter Jonas at English National Opera is reassuring.

The getting down to specific names is the other matter and while reading the documents it appears to be a sequential process (define the model and then select the appointee). I can't see how these are not somehow interdependent. Model influences names; names influence model.

All this will be overseen by a 5 member Selection Committee, made up of 4 Board members:

Dr Switkowski,
David Malouf AO,
Anson Austin OAM,
the really useful Tim McFarlane, and
Adrian Collette.

This committee will proceed in 2 stages to pull it all together. The first is a wide consultation process, internal and external, embracing down to and including 'qualified professionals'. Members of the selection panel will consult with:

1. A select panel of esteemed professionals, including:

Neil Armfield AO (opera and theatre director),
Richard Mills AM (composer, conductor, and music director)
Jonathan Summers and Yvonne Kenny AM (opera singers),
Sarah Billinghurst (Assistant Manager, Artistic, at The Metropolitan Opera),
Trevor Green (Managing Director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra).

You may remember (New Zealand born) Sarah Billinghurst being interviewed in one of the Met Opera HD Broadcasts interval chatty chats, talking about casting.

2. Other major opera companies looking at leadership structures in similar sized overseas companies.

3. Significant performance partners: e.g Orchestra Victoria, The Australian Ballet, The Sydney Opera House and The Arts Centre, Melbourne.

4. In addition, the Selection Committee will take account of any submissions and suggestions already made in the context of earlier and ongoing Board consultations with stakeholder groups. It will also welcome any additional submissions made in the consultation period from suitably qualified professionals.

5. The Selection Committee will consult internally with:

Senior Artistic Management of OA:

Assistant Music Director, Tony Legge (recenlty appointed, previously Head of Music at English National Opera, and Head of Opera at RAM),
Artistic Adminstrator, Ian McCahon,
Chorus Master, Michael Black,
General Manager of the AOBO, Ed Hossack,
Concert Master of the AOBO, Aubrey Murphy,
Technical Director, Chris Yates.

6. and with representatives of the major artistic departments of the company:

the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra,
the Opera Australia Chorus,
Principal singers – permanent ensemble and free lance,
Opera Australia’s music staff,
Opera Australia’s resident directors, technical personnel including workshop, wardrobe and stage management.

Anyone left out?

Following these consultations, an announcement will be made on the artistic structure that will be put in place. That is, after an expected 4 - 6 weeks consultation period, the plan is to develop a job description and advertise and follow normal due process over another 3 months. They are being refreshingly transparent and are blessed with formidable forces and talent, which, well harnessed, will hopefully find and deliver us structural stability, some world class edgy music theatre, and all the bums-on-seats the cash register needs.

No comments: