After many weeks of rumors swirling in the media, the Canadian Opera Company has officially announced that its General Director, Alexander Neef, has been named the next General Director of Opéra national de Paris beginning in the 2021/2022 season. The year is significant, since an earlier June 27th report in Le Figaro suggested Neef wouldn’t take over the reigns from current Paris GD Stéphane Lissner until the end of the 2022 season. This would have involved an extension of Lissner’s current contract for one year. So, it appears negotiations have taken place in the interim to enable Neef to start his Paris tenure at the beginning of 2021.
Alexander Neef is a 2018 Opera Canada Awards—‘The Rubies’ honouree. He took over as GD of the COC in June 2008 and since then has been instrumental in putting the company on the international opera ‘map’, attracting high profile singers like Sondra Radvanovsky, Ben Heppner, Jane Archibald, Thomas Hampson, Karita Mattila, Christine Goerke and Susan Graham. He introduced Canadian audiences to high profile directors like Peter Sellars, Claus Guth, Dmitri Tcherniakov, Peter Hinton, David Alden and Robert Wilson.
Off the mainstage, Neef helped to give greater prominence to the company’s young artist training program, the COC’s Ensemble Studio, casting young artists like Ambur Braid, Simone Osborne and Mireille Asselin in major roles while they were still ‘in training.’ He also was committed to bringing many Ensemble members—Andrew Haji, Gordon Bintner and Ileana Montalbetti come to mind—back to the company to star in productions after they graduated.
Neef will be taking over one of the oldest opera companies in the world—Opéra national de Paris just celebrated its 350th anniversary. Its season is split between two major opera houses, the older Palais Garnier (built 1861-75) and the Opéra Bastille (opened 1989, currently undergoing a major refurbishment). Its 19/20 season lists 22 mainstage opera productions—a considerable jump from the COC’s six.
Last year, Neef also became Artistic Director at Santa Fe Opera. Although it it only operates during the summer, the company still presents five major opera productions per season—it will remain to be seen if Neef is able to carry on with his Santa Fe duties come 2021!
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