The Dallas Opera Announces Exit of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell. Sort Of.

Jonathan Pell at the Winspear Opera House

You may not recognize his face, but if you've gone to an opera in Dallas at some point over the last 30 years, you're likely familiar with the result of his work. Jonathan Pell, The Dallas Opera's artistic director, has been the company's resident taste-maker for three decades, making important decisions about everything from which operas get staged to who stars in them.

This morning, TDO announced that Pell will be leaving the company at the end of this year. Well, sort of leaving. Pell asked to step down from his full-time position as artistic director to "do some other things that [he has] long wanted to do but for which [he] never had the time." But, at the request of the company, Pell has agreed to stay on as "artistic adviser" through the 2016/17 season to help with "artistic continuity."

During his long tenure with TDO, Pell has made a name for himself as a talent-finder. He has long served as the artistic adviser and chair of the judges panel for the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition and has judged the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Pell was influential in "discovering" both Jay Hunter Morris and Clifton Forbis, two stars with huge careers who were at one time recruited for TDO's chorus by Pell.

In a statement released this morning, Pell says he is confident he is leaving the company in good hands. Beginning in 2015, General director and CEO Keith Cerny (now entering his fifth year with TDO) and music director Emmanuel Villaume (appointed last year) will serve as the primary artistic leaders of the company. Together, along with input form Pell, they will make the bulk of TDO's artistic decisions. As of now, there are no plans to hire a new artistic director.

In his statement, Pell also sounds ready for a change, and deservedly so. He has brought some 162 production of 97 different operas to Dallas (including four commissioned works). "It is time to do other things," he says. "I have attended almost 600 performances at the Dallas Opera, as well as thousands of rehearsals. I am very proud of what I have accomplished here, but now look forward to being involved in other worthwhile projects."

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Mr. Pell has done a stellar job in finding the right talent in the right production.  He will be greatly missed. 


Over the years, I heard from very good inside sources that Mr. Pell was a tyrant and really awful to work with; I can't say I'm going to miss him at all. Let's get some younger talent in who is more concerned with the opera company than he or she is with themselves.

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