• An Update on my Paris Appointment

    By Alexander Neef

    To our COC community,

    As you know, around this time last summer I was appointed the next General Director of Opéra national de Paris. At that point, preparations were getting underway for Turandot and Rusalka, and we were busy readying our Monumental campaign to bring Parsifal to our stage. While the Paris appointment was an incredible honour, that next chapter of my career was still two full years away.

    A lot has changed since then, to say the least. The impact of our present global health crisis led Stéphane Lissner to announce he would be stepping down as General Director of Opéra national de Paris in December 2020 — more than six months ahead of schedule. A few weeks later, I received a request from France’s Minister of Culture to accelerate my appointment start date. With both Paris and Toronto in varying states of COVID-19 lockdown, uncertainty remained about what kind of plan might be possible, and so a thorough dialogue began between myself and COC leadership.

    After careful deliberation, the COC Board of Directors has given its full support to an earlier start for my Paris appointment and I am deeply appreciative of their consideration throughout. As of September 1, 2020, I take on full responsibilities as General Director of Paris Opera, a position that I will hold in conjunction to my continued role as General Director here, until a new COC company leader has been named and transitioned into the role.

    I will remain closely involved with all artistic and production aspects of company planning and, from a larger operations perspective, COC Deputy General Director Christie Darville will continue to manage content creation, audience development, community partnerships, and fundraising. Christie’s proven track record in all of these areas is precisely what led to the expansion of her portfolio earlier this year. Further to this, it's thanks to the incredible tenacity of our entire staff that the arrangement between Toronto and Paris is even possible, enabling the company’s Succession Committee to fully focus on securing the best candidate for COC’s next General Director.

    Despite countless recent obstacles to the creation and sharing of music at this moment, I am heartened to see our art form persist, and even find new audiences, through innovation and adaptation. I’m incredibly proud of the work the COC has put into our most recent digital programming. The immense success of our Virtual Choir, Songs of Hope concert, Opera Makers series for youth, and, most recently, our lively Hadrian Watch Party speaks to this company’s creativity and passion, and I look forward to sharing the details of our digital fall programming very soon.

    As we continue to navigate a much-changed performing arts industry in the wake of COVID-19, know that I will remain actively involved in shaping the COC’s path forward, both in the immediate and in setting the company up for continued long-term success.

    In a year that has already asked so many of us to adjust to unexpected shifts in circumstance, today’s news also means one very big adjustment for my family who will be accompanying me to Paris. It is a relief to know that, in minimizing air travel moving forward, they will be kept safe.

    However, Toronto has been our home for more than a decade and I had planned on having more time to bid farewell to the city and people who have formed indelible impressions on our lives. I know the friendships and connections made here are ones that will last a lifetime. I look forward to visiting when it is once again safe — and continuing to champion Canadian opera from Paris.


    Alexander Neef
    COC General Director
    Posted in Alexander Neef


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