When David Gockley arrived at the beginning of this year as the new
general director of the San Francisco Opera, he found dwindling audiences,
serious financial problems, and an awkward personnel situation.
Any top opera boss, especially a "take-charge" type such as Gockley,
wants to have a music director of his choice. In San Francisco, however,
Pamela Rosenberg pre-empted that traditional privilege by getting a
three-year extension of Donald Runnicles' contract, just before she
turned over the administration to Gockley.
Regardless of Runnicles' musical credentials, there is a need for the
company's two top officials to work well together, and while that happened
emphatically and prominently in the case of Rosenberg and Runnicles, it
was not apparent in the new administration.
There have been rumors from the War Memorial about tension or even
conflict, leading up to today's announcement - a civil, diplomatic, even
pleasant announcement that Runnicles will keep his job for the rest of
his contract (the alternative would have been financially severe to the
company), but Gockley will have a music director of his choice beyond
For San Francisco audiences, the good news is that part of the long
goodbye is Runnicles remaining on the podium in the future for Wagner
and Britten - the source of his biggest successes here.
So much for interpretation. Now, for the official version, in a release
from SFO/PR at 4 p.m.:
September 15, 2006 - DONALD RUNNICLES'S TERM AS MUSIC DIRECTOR AND
PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR TO CONCLUDE AT THE END OF THE 2008-09 SEASON
San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley and Music
Director and Principal Conductor Donald Runnicles today announced
their mutual decision that Maestro Runnicles's tenure will
conclude at the end of the 2008-09 season. Mr. Gockley and
Maestro Runnicles also announced that the Maestro will continue
his long association with the Company, conducting productions
beyond the 2008-09 season, including a new production of "Peter
Grimes" and the completion of the new "Ring" Cycle, which continues
into the 2010-11 season.
Gockley is quoted saying that "I have enormous respect for Donald Runnicles
both as a musician and as a musical leader in this company."
Runnicles said: "While I eagerly focus on new musical horizons, I am
equally excited that I will be leading the complete Ring Cycle almost
20 years to the day after I debuted with the Company in the same work."
Runnicles, who has been music director and principal conductor since
1992, leads five of 10 productions this season: "Tristan und Isolde,"
"Der Rosenkavalier," "Manon Lescaut," "Don Giovanni," and (a strange
choice, well executed) "Die Fledermaus."
This summer was Runnicles's inaugural season as music director of the
Grand Teton Music Festival; he also serves as principal conductor of New
York's Orchestra of St. Luke's and is principal guest conductor of the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
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