After overseeing two years of a budget surplus, the founder of Opera San Antonio has stepped aside. Mel Weingart, the first chairman of the 4-year-old organization, has retired and will become chairman emeritus.
Blair Labatt, a former Opera San Antonio board member and vice chairman since 2015, will assume the leadership role. In a Thursday news release announcing the transition, Labatt praised Weingart for building a “strong and well-managed opera company … with a growing reputation for artistic excellence.”
The most recent Opera San Antonio production, Macbeth, which ran Sept. 8-9, received positive reviews locally. Artistic and General Director Enrique Carreón-Robledo, hired by Weingart in 2016, will continue in his role. Carreón-Robledo “absolutely” has the support of the board, Labatt wrote in an email.
Weingart “is no stranger to rolling up his sleeves for the success of Opera San Antonio,” having served in various roles including general manager and artistic director, according to a recent sponsored post in the Rivard Report. Weingart also played the role of King Duncan in Macbeth, although that fictional scenario of regicide has no relation to the company’s change in leadership.
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“Fortunately for all of us, it’s all fiction and Mel is very much still with us,” Labatt joked.
Labatt, who is president of Labatt Food Service, said his new position is part of his leadership role. “Nonprofit service has always been an important part of what we think a company should contribute to the community,” he stated.
He holds a doctorate in English literature from the University of Virginia and previously taught at the University of Texas at Austin. “The study of story and character is a major point of connection between my previous life and what I do now,” he stated.
The leadership change is a normal transition for the board, Labatt stated, and comes later than the end of the fiscal year in June due to “an influx of talented new board members.” Weingart will remain a contributor to the board and to the artistic direction of the opera as requested.
“We will need him,” Labatt wrote.