Just a few weeks after the announcement of LA Opera's expansive plans for the 2006/07 Season, which features 75 performances of ten operas including three new productions and four Company premieres, LA Opera Chairman and CEO Marc I. Stern has announced the renewal of Plecido Domingo's contract as General Director for the next five years. This marks Mr. Domingo's third multi-year contract with the Company. His contract extends through 2011, the year that will commemorate his 25th Anniversary with LA Opera. He is joined by incoming Music Director James Conlon and by newly designated Chief Operating Officer Edgar Baitzel, creating a unique artistic partnership that reflects a new era for LA Opera. Mr. Conlon, who becomes Music Director effective July 1, 2006, and Mr. Baitzel, who most recently held the position of Artistic Director, have also signed multi-year commitments with the Company.
Rounding out the top management team will be Marilyn Shapiro as Executive Vice-President and Mitchell Heskel as Director of Administration and Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Shapiro, who previously served as the Company's Director of Institutional Resources since 2003, came to LA Opera after 25 years of experience at the Metropolitan Opera, where she served as Executive Director of External Affairs before retiring in 2000. Mr. Heskel, who came to LA Opera in 2004, has over 20 years of executive administrative experience with such organizations as the Metropolitan Opera and WNYC-Radio. LA Opera Administrative Director Elizabeth Kennedy will transition into a newly created liaison position with the Music Center, where she will coordinate the pending plans for the renovation of Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
"I must say how delighted I am to continue as General Director of LA Opera for many years to come," said Plecido Domingo. "I look forward to the challenge of planning upcoming seasons and collaborating with James Conlon and Edgar Baitzel, advancing the Company's artistic vision well into the future. It is my dream to make LA Opera a more integral part of life in our city. I am very pleased to have administrators of the caliber of Marilyn Shapiro and Mitchell Heskel join the top management team at LA Opera. I am also grateful to Elizabeth Kennedy for her incredible service to the Company, dating back to our very first season. She is ideally qualified for the challenging new enterprise of coordinating LA Opera's goals with the Music Center's plans for the renovation of our theater."
"Plecido Domingo's decision to renew his contract as General Director comes at a time when LA Opera has emerged from several years of considerable expansion with sound finances," said Marc Stern. "Our recent deficit reduction plan has virtually eradicated our accumulated deficit, and we ended the year in the black for the third consecutive year. By signing a new five-year contract, Plecido has confirmed his long term commitment to the Company. Our artistic and management team is our greatest asset, and Plecido's choice to partner with James and Edgar will result in ambitious and creative ideas for LA Opera in the seasons to come. With top administrators taking on new roles and increased responsibilities, I anticipate many other wonderful possibilities in the future."
Today's announcement is part of the continuing evolution of one of America's most ambitious and fastest-growing opera companies. On October 7, 1986, Los Angeles Opera caused a sensation with its inaugural production of Verdi's Otello starring Plecido Domingo at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Just 20 years later, LA Opera is regarded as a company of international stature and has grown to become the fourth largest opera company in the United States. Today, the Company regularly brings prominent Los Angeles artists together with other world-renowned singers, designers, directors and conductors to create opera that attracts the attention of international audiences and critics.
Plecido Domingo has achieved worldwide renown as a singer, conductor and arts administrator. In 2000, he became Artistic Director of Los Angeles Opera, continuing his ongoing involvement with the Company since its inception in 1986; he was named General Director in 2003. He first gained recognition as an arts administrator as Music Director of the 1992 Seville World's Fair. He continues as General Director of Washington National Opera and is the founder and guiding force of Operalia, the international vocal competition. He has sung 122 roles, more than any other tenor in history, with at least two more roles scheduled for the foreseeable future, performed in every major opera house and made well over 100 recordings, garnering nine Grammy Awards and two Latin Grammies. He has made more than 50 videos and three theatrically released films: Zeffirelli's La Traviata and Otello and Rosi's Carmen. More than one billion people in 117 nations saw his live telecast of Tosca from the authentic Roman locations.
Since his 1974 New York Philharmonic debut, James Conlon has appeared with virtually every major North American and European orchestra. Associated with the Metropolitan Opera for over 25 years, Mr. Conlon has appeared with many of the world's major opera companies, including La Scala, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence. Born in New York City, he was Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004). He has also served as General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002), where he was simultaneously Music Director of the Cologne Opera and the Gerzenich Orchestra, and as Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991). Since 1979 he has been Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival. In 2005 he became Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, which hosts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in its summer residency.
Edgar Baitzel joined the staff of LA Opera in 2000 as the Company's Artistic Administrator, in partnership with then Artistic Director Designate Plecido Domingo. In 2001, he became Director of Artistic Operations and was subsequently named Artistic Director in 2003, a position he held until his current appointment as Chief Operating Officer. Previous positions including Head Dramaturg at the Bavarian State Opera, Assistant General Manager and Artistic Administrator for the Karlsruhe Opera, Artistic Director at the Bonn Opera and Artistic Consultant for the Nice Opera. He has also worked extensively as a freelance stage director.
Currently celebrating its milestone 20th Anniversary Season, LA Opera recently announced its 2006/07 Season, which will feature a nearly 25% increase in the total number of performances. The 2006/07 Season will begin with two Verdi operas, La Traviata (September 9-17) and Don Carlo (September 10-October 1), both conducted by Music Director Designate James Conlon at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
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