Au revoir, Aidan Lang!
Au revoir, Aidan Lang! Seattle Opera

After five years as general director of Seattle Opera, Aidan Lang is hopping the pond to direct the Welsh National Opera, where he began his career in the field.

Sponsored
Just announced! Jon Bellion at WaMu Theater on 7/16/19. Tix on sale this Friday!

During his tenure here, Lang oversaw the fundraising efforts to renovate McCaw Hall, extended the opera's reach beyond the Seattle Center by mounting chamber performances in different neighborhoods, and increased audience attendence. According to press materials, the company's main stage audience increased by 18,000 over the course of two years.

The opera also claims their audience got younger under Lang: "Millennial audiences have nearly quadrupled, with 40 percent of the company’s ticket buyers now under age 50."

According to KUOW, at the board's direction Lang also controversially shut down the opera's impressive scene shop, which employed union workers to create some of the most impressive sets in the world. Lang said the opera had been overspending by "$2 to $3 million a year" for "several years" and so had to make the cut.

But in KUOW's report, Lang and scene shop manager Michael Moore disagreed on whether the shop was a "financial drain" contributing to that problem. At that time, the opera didn't give KUOW "the most recent independent audits of the company’s finances."

When I asked earlier today, a spokesperson sent along a link to their current financial report but wouldn't release the scene shop's financials—which are separate—out of consideration for their staff.

"Considering how painful the scene shop closure was for many Seattle Opera staff, we're going to refrain from adding anything additional to this conversation, and that includes releasing scene shop financials," a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. "Aidan Lang and the Seattle Opera Board have operated with the mission of making opera financially viable. With Lang's departure, Seattle Opera is focused on creating a sustainable future in our new home."

In the KUOW report Lang partly justified the closure by saying that with "advances in digital technologies, designers increasingly are creating sets and scenery that don’t need to be built in huge shops."

So there's that!

The opera says the board will soon appoint a search committee to find a replacement for Lang, and claims it "will continue its commitment to being an equity leader in the opera industry, and among arts institutions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond."

Lang also released a heartfelt goodbye to Seattle Opera fans, which I've posted in full below.

I am writing to share some bittersweet news. My time here with you will come to an end at the close of this season as I have been appointed General Director of Welsh National Opera. This decision has not come lightly as I love dearly both this community and opera company.

Coming to Seattle Opera was one of the greatest honors of my life and I am still absolutely thrilled to have created opera with you. This company is known around the world for its enthusiastic and generous opera community, warm and welcoming atmosphere for artists, and your desire to experience a mix of operas and styles.

Many of you know that Welsh National Opera holds a very special place in my heart. WNO is where my career in opera began, and I consider it my artistic home – the only company for which I would even consider departing Seattle.

We have accomplished much here during the past four years and I am ever grateful to you, our audience members. From Seattle Opera’s founding over 50 years ago, donors and subscribers have always played an active role in fueling great opera and encouraging new directions for the company. I am grateful for that continued support during our time together. I am particularly proud of your commitment to our new civic home at Seattle Center, to which 100 percent of our board have donated and you are enthusiastically supporting. Our new opera center will open in December. I hope you will all join me in celebrating this monumental occasion and return in 2019 as we begin rolling out new programs.

Many people who are new to Seattle or visiting the area stop me at McCaw Hall to say how well we have done with bringing younger audiences into the opera house. They assure me (and I agree), this is not the case elsewhere in the US, and they worry about the future of opera in their cities. Young people in this city want to see opera and we should be proud of the fact that 40% of our ticket buyers are younger than age 50, a huge increase in the last four years. The future of opera in Seattle is bright.

The Board of Trustees will soon be putting a search committee together to select your next leader of Seattle Opera. Look for email updates and be sure to read the President’s Letter in your program book when you next visit McCaw Hall.

In the meantime, I will continue with you through the rest of this season and depart later next summer. I look forward to greeting you at McCaw Hall again soon.

With gratitude,

Aidan