On October 1, 2018, Robert K. Meya became the fourth General Director of the Santa Fe Opera, following a seven-year tenure as Director of External Affairs. Over the course of his first year in the role, Meya oversaw the company’s 2019 Season, achieving a balanced budget and exceeding goals with ticket sales of nearly $9.4 million, a record-breaking $9.67 million in contributions, as well as a 45% increase in facility rental revenue over FY18. Additionally, the “Setting the Stage” Campaign achieved its $38 million cash goal and exceeded its $45 million overall campaign goal in May 2019.
Meya’s first year of artistic planning was equally successful. In conjunction with Artistic Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Harry Bicket, Meya pushed towards a three to four year
forward-planning cycle to allow for the engagement of the highest caliber of artists and creative teams. He was also involved in the appointment of a new concertmaster and four Santa Fe Opera Orchestra members.
Collaboration was Meya’s focus in his inaugural year, expanding strategic partnerships with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the New Mexico State Library system and SITE Santa Fe. In alliance with the Lensic Performing Arts Center, the Santa Fe Opera presented the 2019 world premiere of Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun, the first of four commissions of the Opera for All Voices consortium, whose mission is to provide accessible performances to new audiences in a culturally inclusive manner.
In 2019, Meya personally led the refresh of the Santa Fe Opera’s brand identity, culminating in an updated logotype and the development of Brand Guidelines that unify the graphic elements, imagery, typography, colors and voice used throughout the company’s print and electronic materials. The guidelines were developed over the course of the 2019 fiscal year through a process that included a company-wide marketing audit and international benchmarking.
In his previous role as Director of External Affairs, Meya worked closely with then-General Director Charles MacKay to achieve the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan with a special focus on building contributed and earned income, while also seeking to advance the national and international profile of Santa Fe Opera. Under his leadership, annual fundraising grew from $6.6 million in 2012 to $9.4 million in 2017, a growth rate of more than 40%. He planned and successfully executed a $45-million capital campaign for the renovation of the backstage and front-of-house areas of The Crosby Theatre. Meya launched several new initiatives including a new planned giving society and seat-naming campaign, and added more than 20 new members to the Board of Directors.
Meya organized dozens of outreach events with strategic partners such as the Guggenheim Museum, Asia Society, Morgan Library and Century Club, among others. These efforts have catapulted the company’s audience development and cultivation activities onto a national playing field and have helped to solidify the Santa Fe Opera’s profile as the nation’s leading summer opera festival.
Previously, Meya served for four years as the Director of Development of New York City Opera where he was hired to work with Gérard Mortier as part of the team responsible for re-shaping the new City Opera. While there, Meya oversaw a staff of 26 and successfully increased annual fundraising from $11 million to over $18 million. Meya was a key member of the campaign committee, which secured over $125 million for the renovation of the David H. Koch Theater and oversaw all of the re-opening festivities including a record-setting gala that raised over $2.3 million.
From 2005 to 2006, Meya was Executive Director of the White Nights Foundation of America, overseeing U.S. fundraising activities for the Mariinsky Theater. From 2003 to 2005, Meya served as Acting Director of Major and Planned Giving for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival, where he raised over $20 million in endowment funds to enable the artistic initiatives associated with James Levine’s tenure as Music Director.
From 2000 to 2003, he served as Associate Director of Individual Giving for San Francisco Opera, where he raised significant funding for the ambitious new productions of incoming General Director Pamela Rosenberg. While there, Meya forged the first strategic partnership between the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in a program entitled “Meeting Messiaen” in preparation for the company’s American premiere of Saint François d’Assise.
Early in his career, Meya worked as Auditions Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Opera Club Steward at the Santa Fe Opera under John O. Crosby, and as a radio announcer and editor for Polish Radio World Service in Warsaw where he produced the first internationally syndicated story featuring Nobel Prize winner Wysława Szymborska.
A native of Connecticut, Robert earned a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service Degree from Georgetown University with a concentration in International Relations, Law, and Organization and a Masters of Arts Management Degree from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a lifelong devotee of classical music and is a trained classical pianist. He lives in Santa Fe with his wife, soprano Amanda Echalaz, and their two children.
© Gabriella Marks
Alexander Neef, appointed General Director of the Canadian Opera Company in June 2008, has worked with some of the most prestigious arts organizations in the world.
His career as an artistic administrator has taken him from the Salzburg Festival to the RuhrTriennale in Germany, Opéra national de Paris and New York City Opera, to leading the Canadian Opera Company, Canada’s largest opera company and one of the most important in North America. In 2018, he was appointed the first Artistic Director of Santa Fe Opera, a role he is fulfilling while continuing to lead the COC.
The Head of Casting for Opéra national de Paris from August 2004 to September 2008, Neef was one of Gerard Mortier’s closest collaborators and was instrumental in the production of over 80 operas. In addition to his role at Opéra national de Paris, in March 2007, Neef joined Gerard Mortier as Mortier prepared for his tenure at New York City Opera. He returns to Opéra national de Paris in the 2020/2021 season, following his appointment as its next General Director in July 2019.
Previously, Neef was a member of the artistic administration at the RuhrTriennale, a three-year, multi-disciplinary festival in the Ruhr region of Germany where he was responsible for opera, theatre, and dance productions as well as concerts and events. Prior to his tenure at the RuhrTriennale, he spent two seasons at the Salzburg Festival as a production manager with the artistic administration.
In his current position, he has transformed the Toronto-based Canadian Opera Company into one of the most significant opera producers in the world, attracting globally renowned singers for high-profile role debuts and gathering some of the most important conductors, directors, and designers for creative projects. Neef has also cultivated strong relationships throughout North America and Europe with co-producers such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Royal Opera House in London, Teatro Real Madrid, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, among many others.
It was under his leadership that the company returned to the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music for the first time since 1993 with its spectacular production of Robert Lepage’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables in March 2011. The COC swiftly returned to BAM in 2015 to present the U.S. premiere of Zhang Huan’s theatrically transcendent production of Handel’s Semele.
It’s also under Neef’s direction that the COC delivered the world premiere of Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe in fall 2015 and in October 2018, the Canadian Opera Company hosted the world premiere of Hadrian, composed by Rufus Wainwright with libretto by Daniel MacIvor.
Two new operas are currently in development for premiere on the COC mainstage: The Old Fools, by composer Ana Sokolović and librettist Paul Bentley, and La Reine-Garçon, by composer Julien Bilodeau and librettist Michel Marc Bouchard.
One of Neef’s most significant credits to the company includes increasing the public profile and professional development opportunities of the COC’s Ensemble Studio program, a training program for young opera professionals. In 2010, an Ensemble Studio performance of a COC mainstage production was introduced as part of the annual season and in 2011, the annual Ensemble Studio Competition was launched, inviting the public to be part of the singers’ professional journeys by attending the final round of auditions for the Ensemble Studio.
Neef has a master of arts from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen where he studied Latin Philology and Modern History.
© Sam Gaetz
Internationally renowned as an opera and concert conductor of distinction, Harry Bicket is especially noted for his interpretation of Baroque and Classical repertory. In 2007, Bicket became Artistic Director of The English Concert, one of the UK’s finest period orchestras. In 2013, he was named Chief Conductor of Santa Fe Opera, a post he inaugurated with a critically-acclaimed Fidelio in the 2014 season.
Highlights of his operatic career in the United States and Canada include acclaimed productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Atlanta Opera, and The Metropolitan Opera. Bicket has also conducted staged opera at Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Spoleto Festival, and Los Angeles Opera. He has guest conducted with Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Cincinnati May Festival), Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, NACO Ottawa, Indianapolis Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and The New York Philharmonic.
Within Europe he has conducted performances at the Liceu Barcelona, L’Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Theater an der Wien, Glyndebourne Festival, Scottish Opera, Royal Danish Opera, Aldeburgh Festival, Edinburgh Festival, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, and Opera North. He has appeared with RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Oslo Philharmonic, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Rotterdams Philharmonisch, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Bayerische Rundfunk, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Previous work outside Europe includes the Israel Philharmonic, Opera Australia, New Israeli Opera, and his Japanese debut with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Ian Bostridge.
He made his Glyndebourne Festival debut in 1996 with Peter Sellars’ landmark production of Theodora, and returned in 1999 and 2003. He made his debut with the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2000 (a new production of Rinaldo), and over the following seven years conducted many performances. In 2001, his first Barcelona production, Giulio Cesare, earned him the Opera Critics’ Prize for best conductor, and he has since returned for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005), Ariodante (2006), L’Arbore di Diana (2009) and Agrippina (2013). In 2003 his debut production for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Handel’s Orlando) received an Olivier Award nomination for Best New Opera Production. In the same year, he conducted Lyric Opera of Chicago for the first time and has since returned regularly. In 2004, his first Metropolitan Opera production (an acclaimed new production of Rodelinda with Renée Fleming and David Daniels) was quickly followed by Giulio Cesare (2006-2007) and Clemenza di Tito (2008), and he is now a regular guest.
Recent highlights with The English Concert include UK and international touring within Europe, United States (most recently Ariodante featuring Joyce DiDonato, including Carnegie Hall) and the Far East; regular Wigmore Hall and Barbican projects; and BBC Proms. Recordings to date with The English Concert include releases for Virgin Classics, Chandos, and Harmonia Mundi featuring Elizabeth Watts, David Daniels, Lucy Crowe, Sarah Connolly, and Rosemary Joshua.
Bicket’s discography also includes five recordings with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, including a collection of Handel opera arias with Renée Fleming (Decca) and Ian Bostridge (EMI), as well as selections from Handel’s Theodora, Serse, and the cantata La Lucrezia with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Avie), which was nominated for a Grammy Award. His Gramophone Award-nominated CDs also include Sento Amor with David Daniels featuring arias by Gluck, Handel and Mozart (Virgin Veritas), and Il tenero momento with Susan Graham featuring arias by Mozart and Gluck (Erato).
Born in Liverpool, he studied at the Royal College of Music and Oxford University, and is an accomplished harpsichordist.