• A Message from COC General Director Alexander Neef

    By Alexander Neef

    I came to the Canadian Opera Company in 2008 from France, where I was the head of casting at the Paris Opera.

    Flying into Toronto, I remember a sense of extraordinary excitement about opera in this city. Seeing its landscape of glassy skyscrapers, I knew I was embarking on an exciting new phase in my artistic career in a place that welcomed and celebrated opera’s provocative, empowering storytelling.

    There was an incredible groundswell of optimism surrounding the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and what that could mean for the art form in this country.

    It was clear that we were ready to elevate our artistic standards to a level that didn’t simply match international benchmarks, but actually shape them.

    Moreover, to embark on this creative exploration of operatic storytelling on this particular land – with its unique amalgamation of histories, voices, and perspectives – was the most exciting challenge I had ever faced.

    Eleven years have flown by since then and I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

    Not only have we developed a reputation among Canadians as a creative incubator and producer of opera of the highest calibre, but to our international peers, the COC brand is synonymous with excellence and innovation.

    This reputation is a testament to the work of everyone here, across all levels of the organization, whose tireless efforts keep Canadian opera front and centre on the global stage.

    This reputation is also testament to individuals like you, who are engaged with our programming and open to opera as a vital form of cultural expression in the 21st century. Thank you.

    And now, after 11 years – more than 70 productions, nearly 10,000 hours of rehearsal, and over 650 curtain calls – it is with a profound mixture of emotion that I write to announce my plans of leaving the Canadian Opera Company.

    After much deliberation and consultation with our Board of Directors, I have accepted the position of General Director of the Paris Opera, officially beginning with their 2021/2022 season.

    It’s an extraordinary opportunity for which I feel immense gratitude, and while of course I feel bittersweet about the prospect of leaving a company that is near and dear to my heart, life-changing moments like this rarely conform to our best-laid plans.

    To be able to return to Paris Opera at this point in my life and career feels especially poignant given that my career was really launched there. At the same time, the very fact that this opportunity has emerged for me professionally emphasizes where the COC is now – capturing the world’s attention and shaping the future of the art form.

    You probably have a lot of questions about what happens next.

    I will continue in my role as the COC General Director until the end of 2020/2021 season. During this time, my attention and energy will be entirely focused, as it has been over the last 11 years, on ensuring the strength, viability, and success of our institution; this includes the development of a plan to recalibrate the relationship between expenses and revenue at the COC in order to ensure a sound, sustainable business model for the company moving forward.

    The Board of Directors, meanwhile, will begin the search for new leadership through a formal process.

    I imagine that many of you will have questions or comments about this news, and I invite you to leave a comment below – our team will work as quickly as possible to field your questions.

    This company and this country will forever be a part of who I am. I could not have asked for a better place from which to create, to innovate, and to collaborate in the true spirit of opera as an art form.

    Perhaps most important for me is how I have been changed on a personal level by living here. That’s because the roots I have made in Canada run much deeper than just opera; my wife and the family we are creating together are forever connected to this city and this country – making Canada a permanent part of who we are, and for that, I am deeply grateful.


    Alexander Neef
    General Director

    Photos: Gaetz Photography

    Posted in Alexander Neef


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