As announced last May, Carol I. Crawford, General Director of Tulsa Opera for the past 14 years, resigned on November 13. She will still conduct TO's second production, Lakme, in February, but has been otherwise temporarily replaced by Associate Conductor and Chorusmaster Kostis Protopapas.
In only three weeks as interim artistic director, Protopapas is getting just a little taste of what it takes to run a major opera company, two of those spent over the phone and via e-mail.
His big project right now is sorting out resumes and auditioning singers for next season, the operas for which are planned but have not been disclosed. This week, he will travel to New York, where he hopes to find the majority of next season's singers at auditions held there.
He will also conduct Magic Flute next year in May.
Protopapas came to Tulsa Opera in 2001 as Associate Conductor and Chorusmaster, and is hoping to earn the title of permanent Artistic Director in the next few months, once the Board of Directors makes a decision regarding Crawford's replacement. The Board is conducting a national search to replace her, but in a slightly different capacity. Instead of hiring one person to oversee both the artistic and business ends of the company, the Board is seeking to hire an artistic director and a managing director. Reppe, former executive director of the YWCA of Tulsa, has been the interim managing director since July and will remain in that position until a replacement is found.
There's a shroud of mystery veiling Crawford's departure. In May's news release, she does not give a reason for leaving nor a clue as to where she will be heading. All it says is that "I am very excited about the future and look forward to working with my successor and the board to preserve the company's proud heritage."
Crawford also stated in the release that she looks forward to focusing on artistic pursuits that have taken a backseat during her tenure at TO, including working with living composers.
The only other comment available from her was in a more recent news release and stated, "Tulsa Opera is a civic jewel and I feel privileged to have been part of its colorful and unique history and culture. I am so thankful to the loyal donors and opera subscribers who have been steadfast during my time here.
I will never forget the orchestra musicians and chorusmembers whose collaboration with some of the greatest opera singers in the country brought beauty, depth of heart, and pleasure to thousands of people in this community."
A quote from Board President Henry G. Will didn't shed much light on the subject, either.
"Carol announced her resignation in May and very generously offered a two-year transition period," he said. "The board felt that our 60th anniversary season was an opportune time to move Tulsa Opera into a new era with different leadership. We are fortunate that Kostis Protopapas was willing to step into the enhanced position of Interim Artistic Director and that Dixie Reppe has been with us since July as Interim Managing Director. As we continue our nationwide search for permanent leadership, we eagerly look ahead to the renaissance that change can bring."
Everyone is very careful, though, to mention the wonderful things Crawford did for Tulsa Opera during her tenure as general director (and there is a long list), and to express their appreciation for Protopapas' ability and willingness to step forward for the time being.
He hopes, though, that his term as interim artistic director will continue indefinitely and already has some ideas as to how to continue TO's legacy in his own way.
He's like to continue to expand TO's repertoire, he said.
"The art form depends on it. If you don't produce these works, they don't exist. They're like paintings you have in your basement but no one ever sees. If you don't produce the art form, it gets lost."
Protopapas grew up in Greece studying piano and came to the U.S. in 1993 to study piano at Boston Conservatory and conducting at Boston University. I the summers, he said, he would study theatre in Europe, and it was in an opera workshop in 1997 that he conducted his first opera, Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) by Guiseppe Verdi. There, he felt a strong connection with opera as an art form.
"I've always felt really comfortable being in the theater," Protopapas said, citing his Greek upbringing as an elemental reason why.
"In Athens, there are 300 theaters," he said. "Greeks have always believed in theatre, and I went to the theater a lot with my parents growing up. and I always liked being in the theater and being in front of the orchestra, and I thought, the opera is the thing for me."
Protopapas said, when it comes to opera, he feels a deep connection with the chorus and strives, as he conducts and works in opera, to ensure that the importance of the chorus is evident to everyone involved, on the stage, behind the curtain and in the audience. And, he said, even if he earns the role of TO's artistic director, he will continue to serve as chorusmaster as well.
"I take a lot of ownership in what the chorus does, and it is something I will do myself under any circumstance," he said.
Share this article: