Without a full-time leader since general director Dennis Hanthorn departed at the end of July, the Atlanta Opera has yet to begin its nationwide search for his replacement.
Yet as it prepares to draw back the curtain on its 2012-13 season Saturday night at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with “Carmen,” there has been much work going on behind the scenes:
- The company has sold more than 4,700 subscriptions for its three-opera season, up 9 percent from last year. Though tickets are still available for all four “Carmen” shows, weekend performances are selling well and the best availability is for Tuesday night’s staging.
- Operas for the 2013-14 season have already been selected, keeping the company on track planning-wise. In October, Atlanta Opera held auditions in New York City for singers and is currently in the process of selecting the vocal artists, stage directors and other members of the creative team.
- While the selection of a firm that will identify general director candidates has proceeded slowly, the Atlanta Opera expects the search to begin right after Thanksgiving. The opera’s board targets the announcement of a new leader by the time the current season ends with “The Italian Girl in Algiers” early next May.
Marketing and communications director Cristina Vásconez Herrera said the selection of a search firm, a process led by board treasurer Rhys Wilson, has been a “very thoughtful and methodical process” that involved day-long proposals from several firms. Then “scheduling conflicts” slowed contract negotiations with the yet-to-be-named one chosen.
Herrera is part of a three-member senior management team that — along with the board and a consultant, former Houston Grand Opera executive director Ann Owens — is leading the opera during its transition. Development director Bert Huffman and Emmalee Iden Hackshaw, director of community engagement, are other staff members on that team.
While neither board chairman William Tucker nor treasurer Wilson was available for comment, Herrera said most of the details of presenting the 2012-13 season were in place before Hanthorn’s departure and that the staff has executed the plan without a major hitch.
Shortly after the exit of Hanthorn, the leader and public face of the 32-year-old company for eight years, Tucker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We want to produce works that Atlanta grasps, and typically that’s the top 30 pieces in the global opera repertory.”
The comment drew some negative responses on arts blogs and in the community from those who felt Tucker underrated metro opera-goers.
Herrera confirmed that the 2013-14 selections “will be from the core operatic repertoire.” With titles to be announced in February, that season will feature three productions performed four times each, the same as this season.
The job of shaping next season falls to the company’s artistic/production team lead by artistic administrator Elecia Crowley, production manager Michael Benedict, music director Arthur Fagen and chorus master Walter Huff. The company also tapped North Carolina Opera general director Eric Mitchko as artistic consultant in the planning process.
8 p.m. Nov. 10 and 16, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 3 p.m. Nov. 18. $26.70-$132.36. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 404-881-8885, www.atlantaopera.org.