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Former Seattle Opera Director Speight Jenkins On FTW Opera’s Firing Of Darren Woods 14

Darren Woods on KERA’s ‘CEO.’

From Speight Jenkins’ ArtsJournal blog, ‘Opera Sleuth’:

A number of decades ago David Gockley made Houston, a city with immense financial resources, a vanguard of the new in opera, by presenting usually one new work a season; [Darren] Woods has done that and more [in Fort Worth] with much less money. The surprising fact to those of us who worked to raise money and balance budgets in American opera companies is that he has balanced every budget since 2003 until he had a small deficit in the 2014-15 season. He erased it last season, and the company is now deficit free, what most American companies would call a shockingly outstanding record for a house not relying on Puccini, Verdi, or Broadway to succeed financially. A few days ago he was fired by his board. According to reports, when he tried to work out something, he was told that he was terminated and to leave the building immediately. This kind of firing has in my more than fifty years in opera only happened for very questionable financial actions or some other really serious problem. Did the board have the right to do it? Of course, but does this make any sense? Or more important to Fort Worth operagoers, would any prudent person want to work there in the future?


I think it does bring up the question about opera board members who, as I assume in this case, made a decision for financial reasons, the reasons they are most qualified to make. Mr. Woods had a fiscal record that would be the envy of most American opera directors, starting with Peter Gelb [at New York’s Metropolitan Opera]. To have gone through the recession with balanced budgets while producing unusual contemporary operas is not only impressive, it’s astonishing. This means that audiences are coming to Fort Worth Opera so the company’s popularity is not in question. They certainly have the authority to do what they did; it just puts into question the structure of most American opera companies …