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L.A. Opera fine-tunes key posts

Placido Domingo, Kent Nagano are among those with new titles, contracts.

May 16, 2003|Christopher Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

In a move that underlines Placido Domingo's status as top dog at the Los Angeles Opera while drawing conductor Kent Nagano closer to the organization, opera officials Thursday unveiled a new set of job titles and contract extensions among their key creative and administrative personnel.

The change dubs Domingo general director, a step up from the artistic director title the celebrated tenor has held since 2000. In many respects, the promotion formalizes a shift in power that became apparent in late 2001, when the opera's then-executive director, Ian White-Thomson -- nominally Domingo's equal in the company hierarchy -- abruptly resigned, complaining that the tenor's frequent travel made collaboration impossible.

With Domingo's new title comes formal, undiluted responsibility for the artistic and business sides of the organization, and a contract that extends his tenure through 2005-06.

"He's a very, very astute businessman, and this just reflects the reality of how we've been functioning," said Marc Stern, chairman of the opera's board of directors and chief executive of the organization.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 21, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Season's last opera -- An article on the Los Angeles Opera in Friday's Calendar said the 2002-03 season closes at the end of May. In fact, the last opera of the season begins at the end of May and closes June 22.

Nagano, who has held the title of principal conductor since soon after Domingo took over the company from its founder, Peter Hemmings, three years ago, advances to the post of music director. This is a key position at most opera companies, but Nagano's appointment marks the first time L.A. Opera has named a music director in its nearly 20-year history.

In this role, Nagano is expected to spend more time with the opera orchestra and chorus and exert more influence on the shaping of their sound, while continuing to influence the company's repertory, commissions and casting.

Like Domingo, Nagano has signed on through the 2005-06 season, a two-year extension of his previous contract at a time when the conductor is in increasing demand internationally. Nagano, who also holds the post of principal conductor of the German Symphony Orchestra in Berlin, in February announced that in 2006 he will become music director of Munich's prestigious Bavarian State Opera.

Nagano, who was on stage in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday, led four Los Angeles Opera productions in 2001-02, and will have led two when the 2002-03 season closes at the end of May. He is signed to conduct three in 2003-04.

In addition to these changes, the company announced two more title adjustments: Edgar Baitzel, who was promoted in 2001 from artistic administrator to director of artistic operations, assumes the title of artistic director. And Elizabeth Kennedy, who rose from director of development to director of administration in late 2001, has that title amended slightly to administrative director.

Baitzel and Kennedy remain parallel in their positions, both reporting to Domingo and to the board through Marc Stern.

"This team has been working together now for almost two years, and it works. It works well, even under some circumstances that have been adverse," said Stern, referring to the flurry of surprises -- from strike-disrupted scenery shipments to delayed or diminished donations from patron Alberto Vilar -- that have challenged the organization in the last year.

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