Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago names Anthony Freud as its new general director beginning in October 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 21, 2011


Anthony Freud, widely recognized for his achievements as general director of both Houston Grand Opera (2006-present) and Welsh National Opera (1994-2005), will succeed William Mason as Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director starting October 1, 2011.

In both positions Freud has been hailed for spearheading important artistic initiatives, impressive increases in attendance and fundraising, and visionary community-engagement programs to reach diverse new audiences.

Freud is the current chairman of Opera America and former chairman of Opera Europa. He has chaired the jury for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition (1995-2005) and was an executive producer for Philips Classics (1992-94), where he managed recording projects for some of the world’s leading classical artists.

Richard P. Kiphart, Lyric’s Board president and CEO, stated that Freud’s appointment had been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors at 1:30 p.m. today.

Anthony Freud, 53, a native of London, takes over as Lyric’s general director effective Saturday, October 1 (opening night of Lyric’s 57th season), with a five-year contract that extends through the 2015-16 season. As general director designate, he will have regular involvement with Lyric through the month of September. Freud was chosen after an eight-month international search led by Lyric’s executive vice-president, Kenneth G. Pigott.

William Mason, 69, who announced his intention to retire last July, will continue to serve the company through the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. He becomes general director emeritus at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

“Anthony Freud has an international reputation that includes impeccable artistic credentials,” said Richard P. Kiphart, Lyric’s president and CEO, when announcing the appointment. “He has an outstanding record of fiscal responsibility and fundraising success. He has also been enormously successful at reaching out to, and engaging, audiences who are not part of an opera company’s traditional family. I think he is exactly the right person for Chicago at this time. Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming make an incredible team for Lyric Opera.” 

“I am honored to be chosen to lead Lyric Opera of Chicago, which I have so long admired,” said Anthony Freud. “The company’s artistic excellence is known throughout the world, and collaborating with Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming, and the rest of the Lyric team is an extraordinary opportunity. The Lyric Board and our superb company of artists, technicians, and administrators are the envy of our field. I have been inspired by the discussions I have had so far.

“I have long been a huge fan of Sir Andrew Davis, both as a conductor and a recording artist,” Freud continued. “He is an exceptional musician and I look forward to a close collaboration with him, as well as to working with the marvelous Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus. To have Renée Fleming as the company’s creative consultant is an incredible asset. She is a font of knowledge and inspiration. I am keenly aware of the track record of the Ryan Opera Center, one of today’s most distinguished singer-training programs. I will work to continue its record of preparing remarkable young artists for important careers.

“My passion is giving audiences opera of the highest international standard. World-class performances of the repertoire’s masterpieces are the heart of this company. Continuing and building on this tradition will be my number-one priority. My goal is to excite and stimulate the Chicago public – both confirmed opera lovers and others who perhaps have never considered that Lyric Opera can be relevant to their lives. Chicago is a wonderfully diverse and vibrant city, and as one of the city’s truly great institutions, Lyric must provide broad and deep cultural service to communities throughout our city.

“I follow in the footsteps of my esteemed colleague Bill Mason, whose contributions to the organization have been enormous and whose knowledge of our art form is prodigious. I welcome his input and guidance in the coming year,” Freud said.

“Over the coming months I plan to do a lot of listening and learning – immersing myself in the culture of Lyric Opera and learning everything I can about Chicago. We are one of the world’s finest opera companies, but we must also be a community resource, always addressing the unique needs and attributes of our city. I am thrilled to be here.”

Lyric’s general director William Mason said, “Anthony Freud is highly regarded by everyone in our business and I know that Lyric Opera will be in extremely good hands. We have been colleagues since he took over as general director of Welsh National Opera in 1994 and I am so pleased that he is now coming to Chicago. I believe everyone who has the opportunity to work with Anthony will both respect and like him. Anthony and I have a very cordial relationship so the transition will be both smooth and pleasant.”

 “Artistic excellence has been paramount to all Lyric’s general directors, including my good friend and artistic partner, Bill Mason,” said Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director. “Anthony Freud shares that commitment, believing, as I do, that our Chicago audiences deserve the very best opera in the world. I welcome him to the Lyric Opera family and look forward to our many years ahead.”

Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant, said, “I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Anthony, who will bring so much talent and broad international experience to Lyric. Anthony, Sir Andrew, and I have already started discussing plans for the future, and I am truly excited about our collaboration. Anthony shares my passion for arts education and reaching audiences in innovative ways. I am eager to work with him on many new projects, as well as those in progress.”

Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America, commented that “Lyric Opera of Chicago has secured the services of a new general director with the ability to enhance the company’s legendary global stature. Respected around the world, Anthony Freud is the first person ever to have chaired both Opera Europa and OPERA America, and in doing so, extends the tradition of international leadership established by the late Ardis Krainik.”

Lyric’s search for a new general director, headed by executive vice president Kenneth G. Pigott, included participation by a committee of the Board, Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming, William Mason, and members of the senior staff. The process was facilitated by the executive search firm of SpencerStuart.

“Lyric is fortunate to have found a new general director who has the proven expertise, experience, and strategic vision to lead Lyric Opera,” Pigott said. “We conducted an extensive international search, interviewing more than 40 candidates before making our final choice. Anthony Freud is a person of enormous energy and focus who I know will engage both the Board and the entire company in his inclusive leadership style. His track record demonstrates an absolute commitment to the highest standard of performance and production as well as extraordinary community engagement. He has all the creative and management capabilities necessary to lead the world-renowned Lyric Opera of Chicago into the future.”

Freud will be the fourth general director in Lyric’s 57-year history. Carol Fox was the company’s founding general director (1954-80). She was succeeded by Ardis Krainik (1981-97), who in turn was succeeded by William Mason (1997-present), both of whom spent the majority of their professional lives at Lyric.


Houston Grand Opera

As the third general director and first chief executive officer of Houston Grand Opera, Anthony Freud led the creation and implementation of HGO’s first strategic and business plan. Under his leadership, the company’s fundraising and audience-development activities have risen markedly. Since 2007, HGO has secured commitments of more than $72 million towards its comprehensive fundraising campaign. For the last three seasons, the company sold 89% of seating capacity and expects to exceed that percentage this season. HGO closed fiscal year 2009-10 with a surplus of $25,700 and anticipates ending the current fiscal year on balance. The company’s annual budget is approximately $20 million.

Highlights of Freud’s tenure at HGO include the world-premiere mainstage performances of Jake Heggie’s Last Acts (Three Decembers) and André Previn’s Brief Encounter; a multiyear exploration of German repertory, including plans for the company’s first-ever Ring cycle (2014-17) in a coproduction with Opera Australia; and a multiyear series of Benjamin Britten’s operas. A dozen acclaimed new mainstage productions and co-productions are also central to Freud’s work at HGO. These have included Madama Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor, Hansel and Gretel, La Cenerentola, Aida, Tosca, and Lohengrin.

Under Freud, HGO has released and plans to release CD recordings of live HGO performances, including Last Acts (Three Decembers), Dead Man Walking, Brief Encounter, The Refuge, and Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon.

One of Freud’s most significant accomplishments in Houston has been the creation of HGOco – a groundbreaking initiative to establish dynamic relationships with communities, schools, and a variety of Houston organizations. HGOco programs have reached more than 600,000 children and adults in its first three years.

HGOco’s most distinctive component is “Song of Houston,” an ongoing series of new works that share the diverse stories of Houstonians through music making, photography, creative writing, and visual art. The first commission, The Refuge by Christopher Theofanidis and Leah Lax (2007-08), incorporated narratives from the city’s Mexican, Central American, Indian, Pakistani, Soviet-era Jewish, African immigrant, and Vietnamese populations. HGOco’s collaboration with National Geographic, Doctors Without Borders, Writers in the Schools, and other organizations fostered several community and school projects exploring cultural identity.

The 2008-09 season featured Now and Then, combining traditional Texas blues music with new works by several artists; and The Neff Project, involving an entire elementary school in a curriculum-based exploration of their community.

In 2010 Freud commissioned and produced the world’s first mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon, which sold out its run of five performances. Created by José “Pepe” Martinez (music director of the renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán) and Leonard Foglia, it chronicles three generations of one family on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. A four-year HGOco program (2010-14), East + West celebrates Houston as a multicultural meeting place through a series of nine short chamber operas.

The “Song of Houston” program won the Leading Lights Diversity Award from the National MultiCultural Institute in 2009.

As part of HGO’s strategic plan, Freud established the NEXUS Initiative, a multiyear audience-development program designed to transform the demographic of the company’s reach.


Welsh National Opera

As general director of Welsh National Opera (1994-2005), Freud produced some 120 performances annually for the award-winning touring company, reaching more than 140,000 people throughout England and Wales each year. He initiated long-term relationships with the BBC and other media outlets, resulting in several television and radio broadcasts.

Under Freud’s direction, the company doubled its contributed income and was heavily involved in the campaign to build the new $210-million Wales Millennium Center, which opened in 2005 and is now WNO’s home base. Also under Freud’s leadership, WNO developed its MAX initiative, a radical and intensive program that seeks to involve a large and diverse public in WNO’s work.

During Freud’s 11-year tenure as head of WNO the company’s productions won more major national awards than those of any other UK opera company.

From 1988 to 1992 Freud was director of opera planning for Welsh National Opera, and from 1984 to 1988 was company secretary.


Philips Classics / PolyGram

From 1992 to 1994, Freud was executive producer for Philips Classics in Amsterdam (a division of PolyGram, then the world’s largest record company). There, he acquired an insider’s knowledge of electronic media initiatives and the recording industry, supervising large-scale recording projects for artists including Jessye Norman, Seiji Ozawa, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and Bernard Haitink.


Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Freud began his professional life at the famous London theatre (1980-84), where his duties included those of theater manager and company manager. Among the artists with whom he worked were Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, D’Oyly Carte Opera, Marcel Marceau, Pina Bausch, and Lindsay Kemp.


Chairmanships, Appointments, Honors

Since 2008 Anthony Freud has been chairman of Opera America, the largest professional opera association in North America. From 2002-05 he was chairman of Opera Europa (affiliated with Opera America); under his stewardship OE grew from fewer than 40 to more than 90 member-companies from 30-plus countries.

At the same time that he chaired the jury of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Freud was also a board member of the National Opera Studio in London (1994-2005). He has also served on the juries of numerous international singing competitions.

In 2004 Freud was made an honorary fellow of Cardiff University and in 2005 he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In 2006 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), in recognition of his services to music, by Queen Elizabeth II in her 80th Birthday honors. From 2004-05 Freud was the trustee representing both Wales and the performing arts for the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), a $500 million national endowment promoting talent and creativity. 


Personal and Educational Background

Freud was born and raised in London by immigrant parents, both of whom were born in Hungary. His father came to the UK as a refugee in 1939 and his mother was a survivor of Auschwitz. He attended opera regularly from age four, and has said that by the time he was 14 he knew he wanted to run an opera company.

Freud graduated with honors with a law degree from the University of London King’s College in 1978 and qualified as an attorney in 1979, but chose instead to follow his passion for opera.

Freud lives with his partner of 26 years, Colin Ure, currently Houston Grand Opera’s dramaturg.