Robert K. Meya, General Director
Robert K. Meya, the fourth General Director of the Santa Fe Opera, assumed the helm of the organization in 2018 following a seven-year tenure as Director of External Affairs. In 2019, Meya oversaw nearly $9.4 million in ticket sales and $9.67 million in contributions, the most successful year of fundraising in the company’s history. In the same year, the “Setting the Stage” Campaign exceeded its overall goal of $45 million, funding capital improvements and renovations to the backstage and front-of-house areas and creating a state-of-the-art environment for Santa Fe Opera patrons, artists and employees.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Meya to cancel the Santa Fe Opera’s 64th Festival Season, marking the first summer in the company’s history without live opera. With the support of the Board of Directors, dedicated staff and generous patrons, Meya met the crisis with strength and resilience. Having already sold $5 million in tickets prior to the onset of the pandemic, Meya initiated a Matching Challenge Campaign, whereby each donated ticket and contribution was matched dollar-for-dollar up to $3 million. The company saw nearly 4,000 ticket holders donate the value of their tickets or retain a credit for the future. Coupled with the Santa Fe Opera’s history of shrewd and sustainable financial management, this recovery allowed Meya to retain 70 year-round employees with full salaries and benefits. Recognizing the extreme hardship the COVID-19 pandemic placed on performing arts professionals, Meya provided compensation to all artists, musicians, artisans and seasonal employees who were engaged for the 2020 Season but were unable to begin their contracts.
While mainstage performances were halted due to the pandemic, Meya initiated the launch of the company’s first-ever digital performance series, Songs from the Santa Fe Opera. The series received an overwhelmingly positive response, reaching over 100,000 viewers, more than the opera’s annual in-person audience. Meya remains committed to digital programming and increasing the opera’s ability to reach new and diverse audiences.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Meya led the Santa Fe Opera to end the 2020 fiscal year with a balanced budget and has now assembled a team of experts in epidemiology, sanitization and public health to plan for a safe and successful reopening in 2021. In conjunction with Artistic Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Harry Bicket, Meya is looking toward the future of the Santa Fe Opera with optimism, and is actively pursuing a four year forward-planning cycle to allow for the engagement of the highest caliber of artists and creative teams.
Previously, Meya served as the Director of Development of New York City Opera, Executive Director of the White Nights Foundation of America, Acting Director of Major and Planned Giving for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival and Associate Director of Individual Giving for San Francisco Opera.
A native of Connecticut, Meya 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.
Alexander Neef, Artistic Director
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 Gérard 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, theater, 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.
Harry Bicket, Music Director
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.