Houston Opera CEO to Head Lyric Opera of Chicago

April 21, 2011

The Lyric Opera of Chicago named Houston Grand Opera CEO Anthony Freud as its new general director Thursday, making him the first Lyric head appointed from outside the company ranks.

Freud was chosen after an eight-month international search, Lyric officials said, and he agreed to a five-year contract starting Oct. 1, the opening night of Lyric's 57th season.

"He has an outstanding record of fiscal responsibility and fundraising success," Lyric president and CEO Richard Kiphart said in a statement. "He has also been enormously successful at reaching out to, and engaging, audiences who are not part of an opera company's traditional family. I think he is exactly the right person for Chicago at this time."

Freud, 53, will work with music director Sir Andrew Davis and famed soprano Renee Fleming, who joined the Lyric in December as its first creative consultant. The Lyric Opera, one of the nation's most prominent after New York's Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera., has a nearly $53 million operating budget and 26,000 season ticket holders.

"I am honored to be chosen to lead Lyric Opera of Chicago, which I have so long admired," Freud said in a statement. "The Lyric Board and our superb company of artists, technicians, and administrators are the envy of our field. I have been inspired by the discussions I have had so far."

He called collaborating with Davis and Fleming "an extraordinary opportunity."

Freud becomes the fourth person to head the Lyric Opera and succeeds retiring director William Mason. Salary terms were not publicly disclosed.

Freud began working in Houston in March 2006 and helped create and implement the opera's first comprehensive business plan. Fundraising increased under his leadership and the opera brought in $72 million in donations in three years. Capacity sold has also increased significantly under Freud and is expected to surpass 90 percent this year - up from 76 percent when he took over in 2006. Freud's tenure has also seen 14 new productions and co-productions.

He came to Houston after heading the Welsh National Opera for more than a decade, and is also credited with overseeing an award-winning program aimed at bringing opera to communities throughout Houston. Freud, a London native, graduated in 1978 with a law degree from the University of London's King's College.

"We are enormously proud of the company's achievements under Anthony's leadership these past six seasons. His extraordinary vision and commitment to excellence have made a lasting impact on the company and our community," Glen Rosenbaum, the chairman of the Houston Grand Opera's board of directors, said in a statement. "While we are disappointed that Anthony has chosen to move on to Chicago, we wish him well in his new position."

Currently, the Houston board is working on a management succession plan, Rosenbaum said. In the meantime, Anthony will continue to work with the opera "to ensure that our future projects proceed smoothly with the artistic excellence that is internationally renowned."

(AP Photo/Welsh National Opera, Roger Donovan, File)

Story source: AP