Canadian Opera Company has confirmed General Director Alexander Neef will be departing Toronto one year early to begin as head of Opéra national de Paris.
The appointment, announced last July, required Neef to cut his recent contract extension with the COC short by five years (2025/2026).
The move follows approved of a formal request by France’s Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin to the COC Board of Directors to allow Neef to accelerate his Paris start date this September.
The sudden appeal came after news that Stéphane Lissner would be departing as head of Opéra national de Paris earlier than expected due in part to conflict surrounding a €40M deficit and strike action.
The agreement between the COC and Opéra national de Paris will see Neef relocating with his family to Paris, where he will begin overseeing both opera companies until the COC can hire a new general director.
“We believe he can ably lead both companies in this dual capacity, particularly given the current suspension of fully staged opera in Toronto due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions,” said COC Board Chair Jonathan Morgan.
“Being able to minimize air travel remains the safest course of action for my family right now,” said Neef. “This year’s pandemic has asked so many of us to adjust to unexpected shifts in circumstance, and I am grateful for the complete support of the COC Board in arriving at this solution. […] I am also looking forward to getting to know my Paris colleagues, as their musical programming begins in less than a month. At a time when there are countless obstacles to the creation and sharing of opera, I am heartened to see our art form persist, and find new audiences, across the globe through innovation and adaptation.”
According to Colleen Sexsmith, Chair of the COC Succession Committee, the search for a general director continues on schedule.
“With Alexander retaining his current role at the COC and with the support of the company’s experienced management team, the Succession Committee is able to confidently focus on securing the best possible candidate for his replacement,” said Sexsmith.