Job Opening: Houston Grand Opera Director
The official announcements have come overnight: David Gockley is leaving Houston Grand Opera to become General Director of San Francisco Opera.
There are many aspects of this move which make me uncertain. First, I'm disappointed in the dissing of Pamela Rosenberg, who seems to have done some really cool programming in SF. Second, I'm dubious about Gockley's "new music" credentials. I am admittedly a bit of a snob on this point and haven't heard most of the 33 new works staged during his tenure, but Gockley does seem more focused on the tamer side of Americana in his commissions. (I could probably be swayed from this viewpoint by some persuasive argument and better grasp of HGO's history than I have.)
Thirdly, the hole here at Houston Grand Opera needs to be filled. Despite my reservations about his programming, Gockley has done an admirable job staying in the black (or at break-even) while insisting that HGO produce new opera. According to the local paper, HGO just set a number of long-range goals which likely contain Gockley's fingerprint. But beyond that, will the leadership fight to keep that spirit alive or retrench if they run into fiscal trouble?
It should be noted that my definition of "cool programming" is highly personal, and has little to do with the production or vocal talent involved. When I look at a season schedule, I like to see a well-blended mix of new opera (preferably seminal modern works or composers I dig), operas in Czech, Russian, or English, a little bit of Wagner, and a smaller than average complement of the rest of the core repertoire. Compare SFO's current season with next season. 05/06 - with the major exception of John Adams' Doctor Atomic - strikes me as less interesting from a programming standpoint.
Update: San Francisco's Classical Voice has articles about the transition on its front page and, in greater depth, here. They don't seem sorry to see Ms. Rosenberg go, despite the recent announcement that SFO was in the black last fiscal year after major deficits the preceding years.