James Wright to steer Vancouver Opera to 2016 before retiring

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      Vancouver Opera general director James Wright has announced he'll retire at the end of the 2015-16 season, after extending his contract for one more year.

      The company is using the international search firm Korn Ferry to find his successor.

      Wright has spent 17 years at the helm of the company, coming here after leading opera companies in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Anchorage.

      “This has been-by far-the most satisfying work in my almost 40 years in the arts,” Wright said in a press statement. “My relationships over the years with the board of directors, my professional colleagues, and British Columbia and Canada's wonderful artists have been extremely rewarding. The opportunity to both serve a grand, 55-year tradition of opera in Vancouver and innovate in a city that thrives on innovation continues to be an enormous privilege. I look forward to staying at the helm for another year and actively managing the transition to my eventual successor.”

      Wright's tenure has been marked by significant artistic growth and community-building. He oversaw the commissions of four new operas, including last year's Stickboy, by Neil Weisensel and Shane Koyczan, and Lillian Alling, by John Estacio and John Murrell.

      Vancouver Opera also tackled the Canadian premieres of works like 2010's Nixon in China, 2004's Der Rosenkavalier, and 2013's Tea: A Mirror of Soul.

      Under Wright's leadership, the company has also launched such community forums as Opera Speaks, and as a leader in arts education, it's run program like the Music! Words! Opera! curriculum in local schools.

      Wright has also raised Vancouver Opera's profile with his work internationally and nationally, serving two terms on the board of directors of OPERA America, two terms (including chair) on the board of Opera.ca, and one term on the national board of Imagine Canada.

      With many opera companies in North America facing deficits, Wright has been able to keep VO's head above water, helping it dig its way out of a 2010-11 budget shortfall to a surplus position by 2013.

      "We are delighted that Jim has agreed to extend his tenure,” said Pascal Spothelfer, chair of VO’s board of directors. “The company is in an exciting period of stretching itself to engage new audiences and build the next generation of opera lovers. Jim’s steady, sure-footed leadership and his flexible, creative vision for the future continue to play an invaluable role. All of us on the board are grateful that he is staying on another year to lead the company through a very exciting season during  transformative times.”


      Follow Janet Smith on Twitter @janetsmitharts.