Anthony Freud, OBE, general director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera, has been elected chairman of the Board of Directors of Opera America, the national service organization for opera. The election took place at the annual Opera America conference 2008 in Denver on June 11th. Freud will serve an initial term of two years and succeeds Charles MacKay, general director of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
“We at Opera America are extraordinarily grateful to Charles MacKay for four years of outstanding leadership and especially pleased he will remain on the Board,” states Marc A. Scorca, president & CEO of Opera America. “The election of Anthony Freud as chairman of the Opera America Board of Directors reflects the high esteem in which he is held across the entire field. We are fortunate that he will support us with his unique talents and unwavering commitment to the art form in our mission of nurturing the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera. Anthony’s election is also a reflection of the importance and stature of Houston Grand Opera among our community of companies and colleagues, by whom HGO is considered a leader in innovation and excellence,” he noted, adding that the Annual Conference for 2009 will be held in Houston, with HGO as host company.
"I look forward with eager anticipation to contributing to the development of Opera America and am honored to follow in the footsteps of my distinguished colleague, Charles MacKay,” states Freud. "I have had the great pleasure of knowing and working with Marc Scorca for many years and am excited to be collaborating with him even more closely in my new role."
Freud, who the London Times called “a powerful advocate for opera,” was chairman of the Board of Opera Europa from 2002-2005 and is the only person to have chaired both of the large international service organizations for opera. During his term of office, Opera Europa grew from an association of fewer than 40 members to an organization of over 90 opera companies throughout 30 countries; it currently serves 110 member companies from 33 different countries. “As one who has lived in the United States for less than three years, I am especially honored to have been elected to a leadership role in promoting our great art form in this country,” says Freud. “Opera America does a tremendous job of encouraging collaboration and promoting best practice throughout the opera sector, and raising awareness of our art from both nationally and internationally. Working together with our sister organizations Opera Europa, Opera.Ca in Canada, and the recently-formed Opera Latin America affords us a wonderful opportunity for this most international of art forms to forge close collegial and collaborative ties across the globe, working to secure a vibrant and exciting artistic future.”
Robert Cavnar, chairman of the Board of the Houston Grand Opera Association, says, “As a Houstonian and member of the business community, I am thrilled that Anthony has been elected to this position. At a time when the relevance and impact of the performing arts is under relentless scrutiny, his leadership has built on the foundation of Houston Grand Opera and developed it into a model for a 21st century opera company, one in which we in Houston take great pride. As chairman of the Association, I am especially proud that through Opera America, Anthony, and HGO can serve the national and international opera community in ways that will be of real and continued benefit to all.”
Opera America serves its 200 member opera companies with artistic, technical, administrative, and informational support toward the creation, presentation, and enjoyment of opera. Founded in 1970, its membership also includes 300 associate and business members and 2,000 individual members, as well as more than 18,000 subscribers to its electronic news service. Its Board of Directors is composed of 27 members who represent the balance and diversity within the field who assist Opera America staff in identifying field-wide issues and programs that warrant attention.
Freud was head of Welsh National Opera (UK) from 1994 to 2005. He was appointed Houston Grand Opera’s third general director and its first CEO in July 2005, and began his tenure in Houston in March 2006. His first two years with HGO have seen the completion of a five year strategic plan, inclusive of a three year business plan; the staging of acclaimed new mainstage productions of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and Verdi’s Aida; the world premieres of Christopher Theonfanidis’s The Refuge and Jake Heggie’s Last Acts; and the establishment of a six-year series of performances of the works of Benjamin Britten. A balanced budget and significant growth in subscribers and donors marked the 2007-08 season, along with the creation of HGOco, a radical initiative aiming to deepen HGO’s relevance throughout Houston and to restore culture and the arts to positions of central importance in its communities; the creation of the Founder’s Council for Artistic Excellence, a multi-year giving society that has resulted in pledges of more than $7.5 million to date from 40 donors; and the establishment of the NEXUS Initiative, a new five-year audience development program that provides underwriting for free and affordably-priced performances for new audiences.
During Freud's tenure as general director of Welsh National Opera (1994-2005), the company won two Laurence Olivier Awards, a Barclays Theatre Award, an Evening Standard Award, and five Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, including three consecutively for finest achievement in opera. Also from 1994-2005, Freud was chair of the jury of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, one of the most important singing competitions for young artists. He is an Honorary Fellow of both University of Cardiff and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In June 2006, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an OBE (Office of the Order of the British Empire) as part of the 2006 Birthday Honors in honor of his services to music.