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Timothy O’Leary has been General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis since 2008. He is responsible for overseeing all institutional and artistic matters, heading a leadership team that includes OTSL Music Director Stephen Lord and Artistic Director James Robinson.
During Mr. O’Leary’s tenure, Opera Theatre has continued to earn acclaim for innovative programming, and has achieved sustained growth in new audiences. The company has been nationally recognized for success in attracting new subscribers and building a younger and more diverse audience, in part through its Engagement and Inclusion Task Force and Young Friends program, which has seen three-fold growth in the past five years. In 2016, Mr. O’Leary received the St. Louis Business Journal “Innovation Award” for this work, and Opera Theatre also became one of four U.S. opera companies to win a major grant from The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative.
Mr. O’Leary’s tenure has also brought new records for fundraising. Opera Theatre’s endowment has grown by more than 75%, from $16.5 million in 2008 to reach $29.1 million in 2016. Annual contributions have grown by more than 35% during the same period, to exceed $5.5 million per year.
In 2013, Opera Theatre launched its New Works, Bold Voices series, a cycle of world-premiere American operas that embrace diverse influences and tell stories of the modern era. The first opera in the cycle, Champion, an “opera in jazz” by Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer, was co-commissioned with Jazz St. Louis and became the best-selling world premiere in OTSL history. The second opera, “27” by Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek, prompted The Denver Post to write, “If you want to understand where opera is going in America you have to travel right to its middle; to … Opera Theatre of St. Louis.” The cycle continues in 2016 with Shalimar the Clown by Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph, based on the novel by Salman Rushdie.
Also during Mr. O’Leary’s tenure, Opera Theatre has presented important but rarely staged works, such as the first new U.S. production of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer since its original 1991 staging. The production won widespread acclaim, and in 2012 Mr. O’Leary was awarded the Norman A. Stack Community Relations Award by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council for community projects surrounding the opera and the resulting collaboration with civic leaders to establish an annual interfaith September 11th concert. Further recognition for OTSL’s work includes the Missouri Arts Council’s Arts Award in 2010, and the Arts and Education Council’s St. Louis Arts Award for Excellence in 2013. In 2015, Mr. O’Leary was named a “St. Louis Superhero” by Metro Theatre Company.
Before his appointment as OTSL General Director, Mr. O’Leary was part of the management team at New York City Opera under General and Artistic Director Paul Kellogg, and was also the first Managing Director of New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera, where collaborations included the Lincoln Center Festival and the Spoleto Festival USA. Mr. O’Leary’s past fundraising experience included assignments for New York’s Theatre for a New Audience and Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre Company.
Mr. O’Leary’s training included an apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, graduate studies in Theatre Management at Columbia University, and a degree in English from Dartmouth College. As an assistant stage director, he worked for the New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and others.
Mr. O’Leary serves as Treasurer of the Board of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, and has also completed National Arts Strategies’ “Chief Executive Program,” which included training at the business schools of the University of Michigan and Harvard University. He lives in the city of St. Louis with his wife Kara, a clinical psychologist, and their three children.