Opéra national de Paris General Director Designate Alexander Neef will begin his appointment at the beginning of the 2021/22 season.
After weeks of speculation, the French Cabinet in Paris has named Canadian Opera Company (COC) General Director Alexander Neef as General Director Designate of Opéra national de Paris.
Neef will succeed Stéphane Lissner, beginning in September 2021, and will remain in Toronto through the close of the 2020/2021 COC season. The new appointment will require Neef to cut his recent contract extension with the COC short by five years (2025/2026).
“The Canadian Opera Company has been my home for more than a decade, and I am humbled and honoured by the welcome and support that I have received throughout my time here,” said Neef in a statement. “The personal connections that have taken root in this city and in this country will certainly endure, regardless of where I find myself in the world.”
“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.”
The new appointment will mark a return for Neef to the renowned international opera house, where he worked alongside legendary former general director Gerard Mortier as head of casting at Paris Opera between August 2004 to September 2008.
Neef left Paris Opera in 2008 to begin his tenure as General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, taking over from Richard Bradshaw after his death in 2007. Over the past 11 years, Neef has been pivotal in casting Canada’s namesake opera company alongside “the Big Five” North American opera companies including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington. His international connections have been particularly fruitful in helping the COC foster close relationships with co-producers such as the Met Opera, Royal Opera House, Teatro Real Madrid, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and the Bolshoi Theatre.
“Alexander has demonstrated tremendous foresight and vision as General Director since 2008,” said former Chair of the Canadian Opera Company Board Colleen Sexsmith. “The groundwork that he has laid over the course of his tenure with the COC has well-positioned the company for continued creative success.”
Neef’s COC highlights include two world premieres: Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe (2015), and Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian (2018), numerous production of critically lauded opera mainstays. He has also been a strong supporter of the importance of nurturing new opera talent, particularly with the continued support for the COC Ensemble Studio, which has become Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Allyson McHardy, and Krisztina Szabó.
“Mr. Neef’s selection is a testament to his hard work, dedication, and achievements throughout his career — particularly here in Canada,” said Canadian Opera Company Board Chair Justin Linden. “We the board, the staff, the artists, and the supporters of Canadian opera, strongly support his appointment and look forward to his future achievements.”
Before starting his new position in Paris, Neef said he looks forward to developing 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.”