After a three-month nationwide search, the Chicago Opera Theater (COT) Board of Directors is pleased to announce that veteran artistic leader and stage director Lawrence Edelson has been named the next General Director of the company, Chicago’s foremost producer of new and reimagined opera currently launching its 50th Anniversary.
Edelson will begin his duties beginning July 1, 2023, taking the reins from Interim General Director Meaghan Stainback Smallwood who will continue to co-lead with Edelson through September 1, 2023 before returning to her previous role as COT’s Director of Development. Smallwood has been managing the company since former General Director Ashley Magnus departed Chicago in March.
“The Board search committee, led by the Immediate Past Board President Henry Fogel, conducted a rigorous search, and we were privileged to meet many incredible candidates.” said COT Board President Susan Irion. “Larry is an innovative leader in the opera field and lives COT's core values of artistic excellence, support of artists and diversity, and championing new works.”
“I have long admired Larry’s vital contributions to opera, particularly through his work with American Lyric Theater,” added COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. “COT’s collaborative workshop of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing with ALT in 2019 allowed the opera’s creative team to hone the work that we ultimately premiered this spring to critical acclaim. I am looking forward to working with Larry in this new capacity as he brings his extensive experience and creative energy to Chicago.”
Lawrence Edelson is highly respected as a visionary company leader and stage director who has created programs in the areas of artist mentorship and new opera development that have served as models for opera companies across the country. In 2005, Edelson founded American Lyric Theater (ALT), where he serves as Artistic and General Director – a position he will continue as he joins Chicago Opera Theater as General Director. At ALT, Edelson created the Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), the first multi-year professional mentorship initiative for emerging opera composers, librettists, and dramaturgs in the country, through which he has shepherded the development of over 20 operas. He was also responsible for initiating the Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative (OWDARI), for which he was recognized in 2021 by Musical America as one of the Top 30 Professionals of the Year. From 2014-2022, Edelson served as Artistic and General Director of Opera Saratoga concurrent with his leadership of ALT. During his tenure at Opera Saratoga, he was responsible for rebranding the organization, expanding the company's young artist program and creating new mentorship opportunities for conductors and directors, increasing community engagement and education programs year-round, and diversifying the repertoire produced. His tenure at Opera Saratoga was marked by a significant increase in the company’s artistic profile nationally, while simultaneously increasing income in all areas including an increase in individual giving by over 250% and an increase in ticket sales by over 60%.
As a stage director, Edelson began his career on the staff of Glimmerglass Opera, assisting the pioneering director and choreographer Rhoda Levine. He has since created original critically acclaimed productions of world premieres, American premieres, and revitalized works from the traditional canon for companies across the country including Wolf Trap Opera, Minnesota Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Virginia Opera, and Florida Grand Opera. With his considerable artistic experience, Edelson will occasionally direct new productions for COT.
“Chicago Opera Theater is one of the most innovative opera companies in the country, and COT’s commitment to expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form resonates deeply with me,” said Edelson. “I am honored to join this very special company as General Director, and I am particularly excited to relocate to Chicago – a city with a vibrant, diverse, and constantly evolving arts scene. I’ve seen first-hand the commitment and passion of the entire team at COT, and I look forward to partnering with Lidiya Yankovskaya, the staff, and the Board to build upon COT’s extraordinary history and to forge dynamic plans for the future.”
About Chicago Opera Theater
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary Season in 2023/24, Chicago Opera Theater is a company laser-focused on living its values: expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form, producing high-quality works new to Chicago audiences, identifying top-tier casts and creative talent at the beginning of grand operatic careers, and following through on commitments to equity and access – behind the scenes, on the stage, and in the audience. Since its founding in 1973, COT has grown from a grassroots community-based company to a national leader in an increasingly vibrant, diverse, and forward-looking art form. COT has staged over 155 operas, including 81 Chicago premieres and 47 operas by American composers. Founded in 2018 and celebrating its fifth anniversary this Spring, the Vanguard Initiative is COT's fully comprehensive program for composers ready to delve into the world of opera culminating with the development of a full-length opera commissioned by the company. Lidiya Yankovskaya is one of only two women to hold the title of music director at a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States.
Chicago Opera Theater’s 2022/23 season concludes with the Chicago Premieres of two one-act operas by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer presented with COT partners Music of Remembrance. Another Sunrise and For a Look or a Touch feature singers Ryan McKinny and Caitlin Lynch with actor Curt Branom on May 27 at 7:30 p.m. and May 28 at 3:00 p.m. at the Athenaeum Center, 2936 N Southport Ave in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
For more information on Chicago Opera Theater and the 2023/24 season, visit chicagooperatheater.org