Charles MacKay became General Director of The Santa Fe Opera in 2008 as only the third general director in the Company’s history. Under his leadership, The Santa Fe Opera completed one successful capital campaign, launched another, and oversaw a massive renovation of the front-of-house areas and backstage shops – many of which had not been updated for 50 years. His artistic leadership has furthered The Santa Fe Opera’s tradition of bold and innovative repertory with the commission of five mainstage world premieres – including Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in 2015 and Mason Bates’ The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs in 2017. In addition, he has actively promoted education and community outreach – having experienced his first opera in Santa Fe at the age of nine – and the development of young artists in the Apprentice Program for Singers and Technicians, long considered one of the best programs of its kind.
Prior to assuming leadership of The Santa Fe Opera, Mr. MacKay served as general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis from 1985-2008. During his tenure, Mr. MacKay established the next major artistic and institutional steps for the company: undertaking its first major endowment campaign, establishing a permanent home for the company in the Sally S. Levy Opera Center, and commissioning more than ten world premieres. He has also served as Director of Development and Finance of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and the “Festival of Two Worlds” in Spoleto, Italy. His career began at The Santa Fe Opera, playing French Horn in the orchestra, after which he held a number of positions, including Box Office Manager, Development and Sales Manager, and, finally, Business Manager.
Mr. MacKay is a member of the Board of Directors of OPERA America, serving as Chairman from 2000-2008. He is President of the William M. Sullivan Musical Foundation, an organization which supports the development of young vocal artists. He is a frequent adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and also served as the Chairman of the Opera-Music Theater panel of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Harry Bicket, the eminent British-born conductor, was appointed The Santa Fe Opera’s new Chief Conductor in 2013. He has since led the Company’s first performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio in 2014 and will return in the 2015 season with a new production of La Finta Giardiniera. He previously appeared with the Company to lead three operas: Agrippina in 2004, Platée in 2007, and Radamisto in 2008.
“One of the most important and sought-after conductors working today, Maestro Harry Bicket brings a wealth of experience to Santa Fe,” said General Director Charles MacKay. “He is in demand by opera companies, symphony orchestras, and chamber music venues world-wide, and his acceptance of the position is a coup for the Company.”
The conductor describes Santa Fe as an oasis of excellence in these times of artistic and financial pressures. “What Santa Fe does is more and more rare — giving its artists time and space to breathe,” said Bicket. “Preparation is meticulous, making sure that the artistic product is the very best.”
Maestro Bicket, 53, was born in Liverpool and educated at Oxford and at the Royal College of Music. He holds dual citizenship in the U.K. and the U.S., as does his wife, Audrey, who is an environmental epidemiologist serving in the Center for Environmental Policy at the Imperial College, London. They have a daughter, Amelia.
Stepping in at the last minute to conduct Peter Sellars’ production of Handel’s Theodora at Glyndebourne in 1996 brought Maestro Bicket international attention. He has since appeared in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world, including Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, and many others. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2004 in Rodelinda with Renée Fleming and David Daniels, and was immediately re-engaged for Giulio Cesare with David Daniels and Natalie Dessay in the 2012-2013 season. In 2007 Maestro Bicket was named Artistic Director of The English Concert, which he continues to lead.
In the 2014-2015 season Maestro Bicket will guest conduct with Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Extensive commitments with The English Concert include concert performances of Alcina and Hercules at various venues across the globe including the Barbican, Theatre de Champs Elysées, and Carnegie Hall. In December Maestro Bicket will conduct a Bach program with acclaimed countertenor Iestyn Davies at Christchurch Spitalfields.
His discography includes a collection of Handel opera arias with Renée Fleming, and other discs of arias by Gluck, Handel, and Mozart with David Daniels, arias by Mozart and Gluck with Susan Graham, and Handel arias with Ian Bostridge.