Seattle boss to take over WNO

Published: 7 September 2018

Aidan Lang, general director of Seattle Opera, will move to take up the same position at Welsh National Opera in July 2019, the company has announced.

He will succeed artistic director David Pountney, but with a wider brief as head of the organisation to take charge of both artistic and business activity, a move that possibly reflects board concern about ticket sales.

British-born Lang has been in charge of Seattle Opera since 2014, during which time he formed partnerships with other companies in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and launched a series of chamber operas, many relating to contemporary issues. Over four years, audience figures increased by a quarter, with more than half of all opera-goers now aged under 50.

The appointment means a return to Cardiff, where Lang served as a staff director before taking on leading roles at Buxton, Glyndebourne, in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Pountney, who will be leaving WNO next summer, said: “it is a particular pleasure to welcome Aidan. He is a highly experienced and knowledgeable opera professional, and I am much relieved to know that the magnificent WNO company will be in safe hands and able to build on its reputation as Britain's boldest opera company."

Music director Tomáš Hanus said: “I wish Aidan many very successful years with our wonderful company. I am sure that his many professional and leadership qualities will contribute to an important period for WNO, marked by the very highest of artistic achievements.

"When I joined WNO two years ago, the amazing artistic quality, dedication and positive morale of the Company under the artistic leadership of David Pountney was a huge inspiration to me. I am sure that the new General Director will very much enjoy working here.”

In making the announcement, WNO chair Mark Molyneux spoke of Lang's ability to build on the company’s reputation for achieving the highest artistic standards, bold and innovative productions and a wide-ranging youth and community programme.

The respected music commentator Norman Lebrecht reported in June that the WNO board had decided not to renew Pountney’s contract beyond mid-2019.

Pountney, 70, had been an invigorating force since 2011, he wrote, but he quoted chief executive Leonora Thompson warning of falling audiences, with some more ambitious programming adored by a loyal core audience (including this writer), but not quite working for the broader public.

Colin Davison