Opera Birmingham Announces New General Director, Keith A. Wolfe

December 17, 2014


Opera Birmingham announces new General Director, Keith A. Wolfe

Birmingham, Ala. – Opera Birmingham’s Board President, Dorinda M. Smith, announced today that Keith A. Wolfe has been appointed General Director to succeed John D. Jones who steps down after sixteen years in the leadership post.

Mr. Wolfe comes to Birmingham after serving as the Executive Director of Fort Worth Opera. He also served as the former Artistic Director of the Fort Worth Men’s Chorus, and was appointed as Interim Director of the Opera Studio at Texas Christian University. During his tenure at Fort Worth Opera, Mr. Wolfe developed a number of expanded training programs for area young artists, including the development of the Fort Worth Opera Studio and formulated “The Ten Commandments of Auditions” with General Director Darren K. Woods, which was featured in Classical Singer magazine. Recent programming included strategic planning for singers in master classes and seminars, and served as a panelist for Opera America, presenting both the strategic planning process as well as how technology can be used to streamline the artistic process. Previously, Mr. Wolfe served for seven years as the General Manager of the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York, the oldest young artist training program in the United States, where returned to conduct Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata, and workshops of Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls and Joe Illick’s Bliss. Mr. Wolfe holds both bachelors and masters degrees in education and opera. Prior to moving into arts administration, he performed with the Virginia Opera, the Washington Opera, the Virginia Symphony, the Shreveport Symphony, and the Virginia Pro Musica. Among his roles, favorites include Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, and Nanki-poo in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. Mr. Wolfe was identified as the result of a national search conducted by Margaret Genovese of Genovese Vanderhoof and Associates of Toronto, the continent’s leading search firm in the field of opera.

“We are very fortunate and excited about bringing Mr. Wolfe into our wonderful organization”, Board President Dorinda M. Smith said. “We are looking forward to many wonderful years with his direction and leadership.”

John D. Jones steps down as General Director of Opera Birmingham after 16 years at the helm. Under his leadership, Opera Birmingham purchased its first permanent home on Sixth Avenue South, created its first endowment with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, began a young artist recital series as well as an annual Home for the Holidays concert, and strengthened its annual vocal
competition into an event respected across the country for the caliber of singers and judges involved.

Community partners have included Samford University, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Birmingham Girls Choir, the Birmingham Boys Choir, and the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Many internationally known artists have appeared in Birmingham during Jones’s tenure including sopranos Elizabeth Futral, Angela Brown, Kallen Esperian and Renee Fleming, mezzos Susan Graham and Denyse Graves, tenors Bryan Hymel and Jay Hunter Morris and baritone Nathan Gunn. Among the productions mounted during his tenure have been the masterpieces of Verdi (Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida), Puccini (Butterfly, Turandot, Boheme, Tosca), Rossini (Barber of Seville, La Cenerentola) and Mozart (Marriage of Figaro, Magic Flute, Don Giovanni) with forays into more unique works as well (Gluck’s Orfeo, Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, Gounod’s Faust, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and St. Saens’ Samson & Dalila). Always an advocate for and mentor to young artists, Jones assigned important role debuts to many singers including sopranos Kristin Lewis, Susanna Phillips, Jan Cornelius, Jane Dutton, Heather Buck, Mary Dunleavy, Veronica Chapman Smith and Elizabeth Futral; mezzos Mary Phillips and Sondra Kelly; tenors Bryan Hymel, David Ossenfort, Roy Cornelius Smith and Jay Hunter Morris; baritones Philip Cutlip and Corey McKern; and basses Jason Hardy and Harold Wilson. In giving the opera almost two years notice of his intention to step down, he hoped to ensure a smooth transition. Immediate plans call for a move to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his husband, Charles Rountree, and a continuation of his career in the non-profit field.

“I am delighted that Keith has agreed to come on board as my successor. I have known and respected him for many years as a friend and colleague – he even served as a judge for our competition 10 years ago! Opera Birmingham is in good hands,” Jones said.

Opera Birmingham celebrates its 60th Anniversary season, and opened on November 23rd with highly acclaimed soprano Alison King in concert who was the first place winner of Opera Birmingham’s 36th Annual Opera Competition on May 18, 2014. The 2014-2015 season continues with Home for the Holidays, featuring hometown favorite baritone, Corey McKern and renowned soprano Alyson Cambridge on Thursday, December 11th, 7:30 PM, Brock Recital Hall, Samford University and Saturday, December 13th, 7:30 PM, Brock Recital Hall, Samford University. The season continues into the new year with Hamlet on January 23 & 25, La bohème on March 13 & 15, and the 37th Annual Opera Competition on May 16 & 17. Tickets are available for all shows by calling 205-322-6737, by visiting the Opera Birmingham Office, 3601 Sixth Ave. S., or by going online to www.operabirmingham.org.

Opera Birmingham, the only professional opera company in Northern and Central Alabama, has entertained audiences since 1955. Follow Opera Birmingham on Twitter @ OperaBham (twitter.com/OperaBham) and on Facebook (facebook.com/OperaBirmingham).