Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Opera San Antonio has hired two new directors to lead the company into its immediate – and longer-range – future.
E. Loren Meeker was announced Friday as the company’s general and artistic director, and Francesco Milioto will become music director. Meeker replaces both Adam Diegel, who departed as artistic director in 2018, and executive director Liz Tullis, who also relinquished her role in 2018. Milioto will be the company’s first music director.
Meeker has worked with Opera San Antonio since the fall 2017 season, when she stage-directed The Barber of Seville. In 2018 she directed La bohème and Tosca, and was already scheduled to direct Rigoletto in spring 2020.
“This is really a coup for Opera San Antonio,” said board chair Blair Labatt, emphasizing Meeker’s international reputation. “She’s been in all these great [opera] houses, and knows – and is known by – all these great singers. It’s going to get the attention of the opera world that Lauren is going to be in San Antonio.”
Meeker will relocate from her home base in Boston.
“In my unique position as a stage director, I’m working with about 10 other companies around the globe per year,” Meeker said, “and I will use that knowledge to help support Opera San Antonio.”
Milioto will join the company after conducting for it in recent productions of La traviata and Tosca. Milioto is also scheduled to conduct Rigoletto, in collaboration with the San Antonio Symphony.
“Francesco is such a wonderful person and has created such an immediate rapport with the orchestra here, I think it’s a tremendous thing for us to be able to have him here more frequently,” Labatt said. “That’ll give us some more continuity, and knit together our San Antonio arts organizations that much more deeply.”
Milioto will remain based in Chicago and travel to San Antonio for productions. “From the very beginning of my relationship with Opera San Antonio, I felt a wonderful sense of support and respect as an artist,” Milioto said in a news release announcing his hiring.
Hiring two new directors will allow the company to plan further forward, Meeker and Labatt said, and solidify the infrastructure of the company. Programming will arise out of discussions among Meeker, Milioto, the artistic advisors, and Labatt, Meeker said, and will begin looking two years out, but plan ahead as long as five years into the future.
“We’ve never been that far out before,” Labatt said.
Opera San Antonio will add a winter performance beginning in 2020 at the Concert Hall of the University of the Incarnate Word Music Center, a smaller venue ideal for an “opera concert,” where singers perform in regular clothes and musicians join onstage.
“We’ll tell everyone to wear blue jeans,” Labatt said of the more casual concert atmosphere.
The intimate scale of the winter concerts will allow the company to experiment with new productions, Meeker said. “It’s going to become a real playground for us.”
Labatt said both appointments grew out of a yearlong process during which different personalities contributed to Opera San Antonio productions. Artistic advisor Garnett Bruce, who directed Tosca, will remain in his role. Meeker also stepped into an artistic advisory role in January, when she helped with casting, building company infrastructure, hiring personnel, developing future season planning, and “raising the artistic profile of the company,” Labatt said.
The hirings indicate a desire for stability for the company, which went through a tumultuous period after the brief tenures and abrupt departures of Diegel and Tullis, followed by a period when the company was led by advisors and guest directors. Enrique Carreón-Robledo had been hired as general and artistic director in late 2016, but was let go a year later. The new hirings, along with the hiring of Artistic Administrator Veronica Lopez in June, mark the third major leadership change in the company’s five years of operation.
Both Meeker and Milioto bring extensive experience to their new positions. Most recently, Meeker stage directed with the Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival. Milioto conducted last season at the Lyric Opera and has worked with opera companies in Arizona, Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Santa Fe.
Opera San Antonio’s next production will be the winter concert version of The Capulets and the Montagues, composer Vincenzo Bellini’s setting of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Information on the company’s continuing 2019-20 season is available here.