By MICHAEL COOPER
Alexander Neef, the general director of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, will also become part of a trio of new leaders of the Santa Fe Opera. Credit Angela Lewis for The New York Times
Since Alexander Neef became general director of the Canadian Opera Company a decade ago, he has helped turn it into one of the most interesting opera houses in North America. Now he is expanding his reach south of the border: The Santa Fe Opera announced on Friday that he would become its first artistic director.
Mr. Neef, who will continue to run the Canadian Opera, is to become part of a trio of leaders in Santa Fe succeeding Charles MacKay, who is stepping down as its general director this fall, after his 10th season. Santa Fe’s new general director will be Robert K. Meya, who is currently its director of external affairs; Mr. Meya will oversee Mr. Neef and Harry Bicket, who is being promoted from chief conductor to music director.
The new general director, Mr. Meya, is a seasoned arts executive who recently oversaw Santa Fe’s $45 million campaign to renovate its striking open-air theater, which has panoramic views of New Mexico’s mountains. He said in a statement that he was confident that “the team that I am proposing — a triumvirate of sorts — will be able to rise to the challenges of the future.”
Other opera companies — notably including the Metropolitan Opera in the 1970s — have experimented with similar structures that divided responsibilities for administration, musical affairs and productions. The Santa Fe Opera said that Mr. Meya would work closely with its board and oversee the strategy and operations of the company, which has an annual budget of $24 million. Mr. Bicket, who has been the company’s chief conductor since 2013, will become its first music director since Alan Gilbert held the post more than a decade ago. And Mr. Neef will take a leading role in production matters, including commissions and the selection of performers and production teams.
Mr. Neef — who was born in Germany, did programming for the Ruhr Triennale festival and worked closely with the impresario Gerard Mortier at the Paris Opera — has helped make Toronto a destination for opera in recent years. The company has attracted top singers, including Sondra Radvanovsky and Christine Goerke, who sang her first Brünnhilde in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle there. Last year it revived Harry Somers’s “Louis Riel,” a 50-year-old work some consider the great Canadian opera — in a new production that exploring Canada’s mistreatment of indigenous people. It has also mounted more new operas, and next season will stage the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s “Hadrian.”
Mr. Neef is not exactly unknown in Santa Fe: The Canadian Opera collaborated with Santa Fe on a production of Strauss’s “Arabella,” and Toronto used Santa Fe’s production of the Rossini rarity “Maometto II” in 2016 — in a performance conducted by Mr. Bicket.