By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Two days after Los Angeles Opera announced that Plácido Domingo had extended his contract as the company’s general director through the 2012-2013 season and a day before it opens its 25th anniversary season with the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s setting of Il Postino, LAO announced today that it had solidified its top management echelon, albeit without adding any new people.
Stephen Rountree, who has been LAO’s chief operating officer since 2008, will succeed Marc L. Stern as chief executive officer, and Christopher Koelsch has been named to the newly titled position of senior vice president and chief operating officer. The company's top executive staff also includes John P. Nuckols, vice president of advancement, who has been with LA Opera since 2002, and Faith Raiguel, who has been vice president and chief financial officer since 2008.
All of these changes, in a sense, result from the untimely death of Edgar Baitzel, who passed away from cancer in 2007 at the age of 51. Baitzel, who had come to LAO 2001 as director of operations, became artistic director in 2003 and chief operating officer in 2006. He was viewed as a critical component of the company’s growth and success, given that Domingo juggles running two operas companies (LAO and Washington National Opera) with a still-full singing and conducting career.
In the shakeout following Baitzel’s death and in an unusual move for an arts organization, Stern — who was chairman of the board — added the CEO title to his portfolio. “It has long been my contention that the position of CEO should not be held by a volunteer board member, although I was willing to take on that position during a time of great transition and enormous growth for the Company," said Stern in today’s release announcing the new executive team. "I truly believe, however, that LA Opera is best served by splitting the duties of the Chairman of the Board and the CEO, and that the CEO position should be held by a paid executive.” Stern will continue as board chairman.
When Rountree joined LA Opera in 2008, he retained his previous job as president and CEO of the Music Center (which he has held since 2002). He will continue to serve in both positions.
Koelsch joined LAO in 1997, which means that he has worked not only with Domingo but also with former LAO General Manager Peter Hemmings and with Baitzel. Koelsch was appointed vice president of artistic planning in 2007; in that position and working with Domingo and Music Director James Conlon, he has been responsible for all aspects of artistic planning, music administration, production and educational administration for the company. In his new post, he will oversee artistic planning, peoduction management, education, marketing and communications.
The complete release is on the company Web site’s “News and Press” section HERE.
(c) Copyright 2010, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.