Mitisek co-founded the avant-garde Vienna Opera Theater at age 25 and was its music director for six years. Milenski says he saw a production there of John Adams' "Nixon in China" that started him thinking of Mitisek has a possible heir. In between, Mitisek became Long Beach Opera's principal conductor. The two began discussing a formal handoff last spring.
"One of the things audiences in Southern California will appreciate is Andreas' ambition," Milenski says, explaining that the conductor was planning to put on "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' as his first production until Los Angeles Opera, in collaboration with the Kirov Opera, added it to its 2002-2003 season. "This is a boy who thinks big."
Mitisek says the company needs to stay true to its focused mission, but he thinks growth is also important. "We need to become a larger group -- right now they're doing two productions a year. It's my strong belief that we need to go to three, so we are more present throughout the year." He adds that this is unlikely to happen immediately because of financial limits.
Besides Mitisek's appointment, Christina Slenk, currently an administrative assistant, will become administrator at Long Beach Opera, and a production manager will be named later. All three will handle Milenski's duties.
As for his own role, Milenski will become general director emeritus, leaving him time for his personal life, some teaching, and an as yet unformed project meant to foster relationships between librettists and composers. "My continuing relationship with Long Beach Opera," he says, "will hopefully be honorary. I have 25 years of experience and I will be happy to share it. But I will not have formal input into the company."