MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

New General Director of San Francisco Opera

Matthew Shilvock

Matthew Shilvock

They sure know how to keep a secret. San Francisco Opera finally has finally announced who will succeed David Gockley, and it’s an insider: current Associate General Director Matthew Shilvock takes on the reins as the company’s seventh General Director starting August 1, 2016. His contract is for five years, through July 2021.

From SFO’s press release: “Mr. Shilvock, born and educated in England, joined San Francisco Opera in 2005 and has served as Associate General Director since 2010. As Associate General Director, Mr. Shilvock manages and leads five departments: Music Operations (orchestra, chorus, dancers, commissions); Electronic Media; Education; the San Francisco Opera Center (professional artist training programs); and Rehearsal. He currently also serves as Interim Director of Development.

Joshua Kosman observes: “In signing Shilvock, 38, to a five-year contract, the Opera has made a choice that emphasizes continuity in the company’s leadership over experience or a proven track record. Over the course of his decade in San Francisco, Shilvock has taken an active role in just about every aspect of the company’s activities, from artistic planning and labor negotiations to financial development and educational outreach. But this will be his first time at the helm of an opera company.”

Kosman offers the following roundup of Shilvock’s responses in regard to programming philosophy:

“We want to strengthen the brand of San Francisco Opera, so that people come to us not simply because they recognize a title, but because they have faith in what we’re doing. ‘Butterfly’ will always sell better than ‘Jenufa,’ but we want to give audiences the motivation to come to a piece like ‘Jenufa’ that may not be familiar to them.”

In response to a question about new and recent works that he had found particularly rewarding, Shilvock cited Jake Heggie’s “Moby-Dick,” Philip Glass’ “Satyagraha” and Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah” as examples of the kinds of work the company should be doing.

Shilvock pointed in particular to the Diane B. Wilsey Center, the 299-seat theater scheduled to open next year in the newly renovated Veterans Building, as an engine for experimentation.

“The programming will have a shorter lead time, and we’ll be able to do works there with greater intimacy, or that find different resonances with the audience. There’s a wonderful sense of innovation that can happen there.”

“By choosing Shilvock, the San Francisco Opera has gotten to have it both ways: opting for the status quo by continuing Gockley’s tradition, while coming down on the side of youth and freshness,” remarks Anne Midgette in The Washington Post.

New York Times reporter Michael Cooper points out that the selection of Shivlock “signaled that the search committee — which had been grappling with whether to appoint someone with a background as an artist or an administrator —–saw his understanding of the practicalities of running the opera house as critical.”

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

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