Monday, October 11, 2010

Virginia Opera's Mark out in 2012


Alan D. Albert, president-elect of the Virginia Opera, confirms that Peter Mark, the company's longtime artistic director, will not have his contract renewed after the 2011-12 season, reports Teresa Annas of The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk):

Albert was responding to a charge made by Edythe C. Harrison, the Virginia Opera's founding president, that the board's executive committee was plotting "secretly" to oust Mark, who has been in artistic charge of the company since 1975.

"Albert said he thought it was generally understood among the full board that Mark's contract would not be renewed in 2012," Annas writes.

Annas quotes an Oct. 8 letter to board members from Albert, current opera president Joan B. Miller and past president Mark T. Cox IV, stating that the executive committee, which has control over senior personnel appointments, decided in 2008 to renew Mark's contract after debating "whether to renew the contract at all, given Peter's history of difficulties in working relations with staff, musicians and board leadership."

Mark responded in an Oct. 11 e-mail: "[T]here have been no complaints pursued against me in my 36 years with Virginia Opera because there has been no basis to pursue any complaints - and to suggest otherwise is slander."

In an Oct. 16 article in the Virginian-Pilot, Annas quotes Mark further on the winding down of his tenure at the Virginia Opera: "All I want to do – especially as the opera is under so much financial pressure – is identify and assure – in open discussion with the board – the safest and smoothest date for transition which will protect the artistic legacy I have created here."

Mark, a onetime boy chorister with the Metropolitan Opera, later a solo and orchestral violinist and violist, drew international notice to the Virginia Opera with productions of operas by the Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave, Mark's wife. He has cast a number of young singers - Renée Fleming, John Aler, Rockwell Blake, Lawrence Brownlee - who have gone on to stardom. In programming, Mark has emphasized Mozart and the Rossini-to-Puccini Italianate repertory, although he also has led operas by Handel, Gluck, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Britten and Menotti.

"Albert said that after Mark leaves his position, the artistic staff likely will be restructed to have several directors with varying expertise rather than 'a single impresario,' " Annas writes.

More on the back-and-forth between Mark and opera board leaders, from David Nicholson of The Daily Press (Newport News):,0,580708.story

An advertisement in the Norfolk paper supporting Mark's retention by the opera has drawn about 100 supportive e-mails, Harrison tells Annas: