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New leaders at Santa Fe Opera

Robert Meya, Santa Fe Opera’s Director of External Affairs, was appointed to be the company’s next general director come October. (Courtesy Santa Fe Opera)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The Santa Fe Opera announced Friday that its Director of External Affairs Robert Meya will assume the position of General Director starting Oct. 1.

Meya’s appointment comes after current General Director Charles MacKay announced in August 2017 that he would retire after the opera’s 2018 season.

Meya won’t be the only new leader succeeding MacKay. Shortly after the board appointed him as general director designate Friday morning, Meya told the Journal that one of his first actions was altering the 62-year-old company’s administrative structure by appointing SFO’s first artistic director and bringing back its music director position that last existed more than a decade ago.

Alexander Neef, general director of Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, will be artistic director, and the music director will be Harry Bicket, the opera’s chief conductor since 2013. They also start Oct. 1.

Alexander Neef, general director of the Canadian Opera Company, will become the Santa Fe Opera’s first artistic director. (Courtesy Santa Fe Opera)

Meya became the Director of External Affairs in 2012 after previously serving in development positions with the New York City Opera, White Nights Foundation of America, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera.

However, his first job in the industry was as a SFO intern during the summer of 1999 while on break from his Arts Management master’s program at Carnegie Mellon. He also has a degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

The Connecticut native, who grew up training as a classical pianist, said his grandmother and mother exposed him to opera. His mother often took him to shows at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

“It was something I grew up with from my very earliest days,” he said.

Meya, who has known Neef and Bicket for several years, said the new model in which the three will collaborate on planning the summer seasons was necessary because of the company’s growth that has made its operations “increasingly complex.”

SFO went from an $8 million budget during his intern days, to $18 million in 2012, to $25 million for the next fiscal year, he said.

“The general director … is someone who really needs to be present here full time and overseeing the operations, strategy, budgeting, (and) the marketing,” said Meya. “That’s really a full-time job.”

Harry Bicket, the artistic director of The English Concert orchestra and the Santa Fe Opera’s chief conductor, will become SFO’s first music director in more than a decade. (Courtesy Santa Fe Opera)

Neef and Bicket will stay in Santa Fe from June-August and attend board meetings throughout the year.

Neef told the Journal that his role will include long-term repertoire planning and relationships with artists, adding that dividing the director’s responsibilities will strengthen the organization. “Three brains think better and bigger.”

In a Friday news release, Bicket, who lives in London and is also the artistic director of The English Concert orchestra, said “SFO could not be in safer or more inspirational hands” with Meya’s appointment.

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