OPERA America Launches 2021–2022 Year with New Board Leadership and Structure
Carol F. Henry Elected Chair of OPERA America
National Councils Promise Greater Diversity and Inclusion
OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, announces the election of Carol F. Henry, esteemed philanthropist and founding trustee of Los Angeles Opera, as the 13th chair of its Board of Directors.
Henry, whose first term on the OPERA America board began in 2011, assumes her new role amid a transformational reimagining of the organization’s governance structure designed to expand and diversify leadership. Seven programmatic councils will engage stakeholders from the entire OPERA America membership to serve alongside board members in setting the field-wide agenda.
Four co-chairs — C. Graham Berwind, III (trustee, the Metropolitan Opera), Wayne S. Brown (president and CEO, Michigan Opera Theatre), Annie Burridge (general director and CEO, Austin Opera), and L. Michelle Smith (CEO founder, no silos communications) — join Henry in guiding the organization into its second half-century of service to the entire field.
Seven accomplished women were elected as the newest members of OPERA America Board of Directors in June. They are the most diverse new class ever appointed and, for the first time, include staff of American opera companies. These company staff members will serve along with trustees and general directors, and bring new areas of expertise to the governing body. The new class of board members is:
- Afton Battle, general director, Fort Worth Opera
- Astrid Baumgardner, teacher and coach
- Alejandra Valarino Boyer, director of programs and partnerships, Seattle Opera
- Khori Dastoor, general director, Opera San José; incoming general director, Houston Grand Opera
- Anh Le, director of marketing and PR, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
- Kamala Sankaram, composer, singer, teacher
- Nadege Souvenir, board chair, Minnesota Opera
“This is a watershed moment for OPERA America as it leads the opera field out of the pandemic and opens its arms to new voices in the industry,” reflects new Board Chair Carol F. Henry, who serves as chair of the executive committee of Los Angeles Opera and helped found that company in 1986. “I am privileged to have this opportunity to work with these incredible women and all of the brilliant leaders of the board to redefine what opera can bring to our communities.”
Board co-chairs, which were introduced this year with special one-year terms, will also direct OPERA America’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the field’s recovery; advise on the safe reopening of the organization’s National Opera Center in New York City; monitor the development of field-wide anti-harassment protocols; reinforce the implementation of equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies; and restore international collaboration with OPERA America’s partners in Europe and Latin America.
The new council model grew out of a multiyear review of OPERA America’s leadership structure, guided by consultant Gina Hoagland, chair and principal of Collaborative Strategies Inc. While OPERA America’s core Board of Directors is limited in its by-laws to 40 members, the seven Councils will expand representation and incorporate the expertise of over 100 administrators, artists, trustees, and other stakeholders. These field leaders will bring greater diversity of age, specialty, race/ethnicity, and expertise to OPERA America’s governance than ever before.
“Over the past 50 years, OPERA America has grown from an exclusive club of general directors to a community of passionate creators, performers, producers, and stewards,” states OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca. “We are delighted to accelerate this evolution to make the board fully reflective of our field and the communities we serve.”
Each of the seven councils will be guided by a charter and co-chaired by elected members of OPERA America’s Board of Directors:
- Artistic Services Council
- Laura Kaminsky (composer)
- Kamala Sankaram
- Civic Practice Council
- Héctor Armienta (composer and artistic director, Opera Cultura)
- Alejandra Valarino Boyer
- Communications Council
- Peggy Kriha Dye (general director, Virginia Opera)
- Anh Le
- Learning and Leadership Council
- Astrid Baumgardner
- Khori Dastoor
- Membership Council
- Afton Battle
- Michael Egel (general director, Des Moines Metro Opera)
- Trustee Council
- Nadege Souvenir
- Carole Yaley (trustee, Central City Opera)
- National Opera Center Board
- James M. Barton (trustee, The Glimmerglass Festival)
Note: The National Opera Center Board was established in 2012 as an oversight body for OPERA America’s facility. It will be incorporated into the council structure while retaining a solo chair and its role as an advisory board.
In addition to the aforementioned transitions and appointments, Timothy F. O’Leary, general director of Washington National Opera, who served as board chair from 2016 to 2021, will support Henry as immediate past chair. Frayda B. Lindemann, O’Leary’s predecessor, and Wayne S. Brown have been inducted as OPERA America emeritus board members. Héctor Armienta and Susan G. Marineau, board chair of the Santa Fe Opera, have been appointed vice-chairs alongside Laura Kaminsky. Ian Rye, chief executive officer of Pacific Opera Victoria, and Michael Egel assume the roles of treasurer and secretary, respectively.