COC’s New General Director Announced

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Dear COC community members,

As COC Board Chair, I’m pleased to write to you all today with news regarding the company’s search for the next COC General Director. After a year-long recruitment process, considering candidates from Canada and around the world, I can now share that Perryn Leech will step into the role on March 1, 2021 and we look forward to extending him a warm welcome to Toronto and the Canadian Opera Company.

Perryn is currently the Managing Director of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), one of the largest and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO has built a reputation for commissioning new opera, with 67 world premieres to date, and has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, and three Emmy Awards — the only opera company in the world to win all three honours. It is also the COC’s most frequent artistic collaborator, having co-produced more operas with us than any other organization.

Perryn brings more than 35 years of performing arts experience to the role, having begun his career in technical directing roles and rising through the ranks with the Glyndebourne and Edinburgh touring festivals, English National Opera, and Welsh National Opera.

Perryn’s long list of accomplishments is greatly impressive. His creative thinking and tenacity, in addition to his talent for assembling teams that deliver, has resulted in award-winning programming and deep-rooted community engagement. In addition, he has demonstrated an extraordinary ability for transforming challenges into opportunities and I am confident that we will be well-served by his comprehensive background.

During his tenure with Houston, Perryn guided HGO through the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey, which struck the region in 2017. Under his leadership, the company rallied not only its patrons and supporters, but the entire city in an uplifting, city-wide effort to connect with diverse communities and build grassroots interest in and support for HGO’s work. Due, in large part, to his collaborative approach, Perryn was able to secure an alternate performance venue almost immediately, enabling HGO to complete its season as planned; he later balanced the company’s financial losses in just three years.

Something about Perryn that I believe you will notice immediately is the warmth and welcome he shows to everyone that he encounters. He holds a firm belief that opera should feel familiar and accessible for all people and has put this belief to work through a number of community-access initiatives spearheaded over the course of his career, including a popular low-cost ticket program for students and new audiences at HGO. Forging more connections across diverse communities — and bringing more opera out of the opera house and into our neighbourhoods — is a top priority for the COC and I very much look forward to seeing this develop under Perryn’s leadership.

At this point, I want to congratulate Colleen Sexsmith, Chair of the COC Succession Committee and her entire team for their detailed work in finding our new company leader. The committee is comprised of:

  • Myself, Chair of the COC Board of Directors
  • Nora Aufreiter, Member of the COC Board of Directors
  • Paul Bernards, Treasurer of the COC Board of Directors
  • Marcia Lewis Brown, Member of the COC Board of Directors and Sistema Toronto Board of Directors
  • Adrianne Pieczonka, Canadian soprano and Member of the COC Life Trustees Council
  • Richard Phillips, Former Chair of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors

Before approaching a single candidate, the committee spent months in conversations and interviews with an extensive range of COC stakeholders. The goal was to hone in on where the company is in this exact moment — and how our team and community would like to see it move forward.

Perryn’s forward-thinking ideas and unique expertise immediately stood out from a long list of over 100 diverse candidates — and continued to impress us throughout our conversations.

In the immediate, Alexander Neef will remain in his leadership role as COC General Director. He will continue to oversee daily decision-making and planning, with COC Deputy General Director and Executive Director, Philanthropy and Audiences, Christie Darville leading introductions and knowledge-sharing throughout the transition period ahead.

The COC’s passionate and deeply-engaged community of staff and supporters is one of its greatest assets and I know that you will join me in congratulating Perryn Leech in being named the next COC General Director and making him part of our Canadian Opera Company family.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Morgan

Chair of the COC Board of Directors

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