charles mackay, General Director
Charles MacKay became General Director of The Santa Fe Opera in October, 2008 as only the third general director in the company’s 59-year history, following the founder, John Crosby (1957-2000) and Richard Gaddes (2001-2008).
Since the beginning of Mr. MacKay’s tenure, the Company completed one successful capital campaign and has launched another. The first, Building A Sound Future, raised $30 million; $20 million to augment the Company’s endowment and $10 million to support the Dapples Pavilion, three vocal studios, Gaddes Hall, and extensive landscaping improvements. The current campaign, Setting the Stage, at $45 million, will vastly improve backstage and audience facilities. The Company has maintained a balanced budget through a stressful economic period. The bold and innovative repertory that has won admirers from around the country has flourished, with a wide array of new and unusual works: Rossini’s Maometto II, Menotti’s The Last Savage, Szymanowsky’s King Roger, Lewis Spratlan’s Life is a Dream, Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain among them.
Mr. MacKay’s association with The Santa Fe Opera is a long one. Raised in Santa Fe, his first professional involvement in the field of opera was as a French horn player in The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. Subsequently, he held a number of positions with the Company, including Box Office Manager, Development and Sales Manager, and, finally, Business Manager.
He left Santa Fe in 1979 to join the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, eventually becoming Acting General Manager. In 1984, Mr. MacKay was invited by Richard Gaddes to serve as Executive Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He was named General Director the following year, and served for 23 years until 2008. During Mr. MacKay's tenure in St. Louis, the company gained national and international acclaim for the presentation of innovative repertory and the discovery of important young singers, while its endowment grew from $680,000 to over $20 million by 2008.
Mr. MacKay was Chairman of the Board of Directors of OPERA America, the national service organization to the field, for four years until June of 2008, and remains a member of the Board. A frequent adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he is president of the William M. Sullivan Musical Foundation, having also served as the Chairman of the Opera-Music Theater panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the recipient of a Missouri Arts Award in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of the arts in Missouri; a Doctor of Music honoris causa from the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and the St. Louis Arts & Education Council’s Excellence in the Arts Award.