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Santa Fe Opera director Charles Mackay will leave after 2018 season

SANTA FE – The head of the Santa Fe Opera, who started out as parking lot attendant for the renowned performance space north of town, is stepping down after next year’s season.

The opera’s board of directors announced Friday that Charles MacKay, general director since 2008, had “asked the board to plan to plan for a transition in leadership following the 2018 season.”

Susan G. Marineau, the opera’s president, said MacKay’s tenure as director has been “remarkable.”

The Santa Fe Opera has garnered headlines around the world this summer in particular thanks to the premiere of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” a new opera about the Apple co-founder.

“As you know, I grew up in Santa Fe, and was dazzled by The Santa Fe Opera after my first youth night performance of Die Fledermaus,” MacKay said, according to a copy of his remarks to the board and opera company members that was released Friday.

“The company has been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember,” he said. “Starting as a parking lot attendant at 13, becoming an extra horn player and orchestra assistant at 18, and then working backstage and in the business office for the next 10 years, I never imagined I’d end up as the General Director.”

Before taking over his hometown opera, MacKay served as general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis from 1985-2008.

“It has been a huge honor to lead this remarkable company and to follow in the footsteps of (founder) John Crosby and Richard Gaddes – two giants in our field. But part of the responsibility of a job like this is knowing when to pass the baton. Throughout my career, it has always been my goal to stop while I’m still feeling on top of things. The timing seems right.”

The opera board has created a search committee to find a replacement for MacKay, only the third director of the opera since it was established in 1956.The company now has a $24 million budget. “The board’s continued priority is to ensure the future of this national treasure,” said a news release.

“We have developed resilience and an organizational depth to handle this change. Change is part of life, part of how we grow and adapt. I have complete confidence in the future of Santa Fe Opera,” said Marineau.

Mayor Javier M. Gonzales, an ex-officio member of the opera board, said in statement that MacKay is “an example of what every child in Santa Fe can accomplish when they find their passion and are supported by their city.”

“While I’m saddened to see Charles leave this position, I am grateful for his leadership of an opera company that contributes more than $200 million annually to our local economy and creates 700 full time summer jobs,” Gonzales said.