Year-end shock: Dallas Opera chief quits

Year-end shock: Dallas Opera chief quits


norman lebrecht

December 16, 2017

Keith Cerny has resigned as general director and CEO of Dallas Opera with immediate effect.

He will start next month in the same post at Calgary Opera, which is much smaller.

No reason has been given.

Cerny has put in seven and a half years at Dallas, raising its profile significantly with a program for training women conductors. He appointed both the present music director Emmanuel Villaume and the principal guest conductor Nicole Paiement,



  • Marc says:

    What’s he running from?

    • Carolyn Bradley says:

      There’s a scandal here, you don’t leave a tier 1 company for a tier 3 company

      • MWnyc says:

        If there were a scandal, I doubt Cerny would be walking straight into another job,

        It may well be that he has reasons in his personal life for wanting to go to Alberta or leave Texas.

        (Or maybe he had a health crisis and realized he needed better health insurance.)

  • Mr. Schwa says:

    Who cares?? Never heard of him.

  • Edward says:

    I went to school with Keith, and he was brilliant then, as he is now, and beyond reproach, as a student, pianist and thinker. His later success came as no surprise to me, and has always been someone to admire.

  • BillG says:

    It is reported in the Dallas popular press that the parting was amicable.

    • Marc says:

      Is that a euphemism for they were happy to see him go?

      Leaving with one month’s notice.
      From a $20M (USD) company to a $5M (CAD) company.
      From compensation in excess of $450K USD to an estimated $155K USD equivalent.

      Methinks all was not well in the Lone Star State and a quick escape was necessary.

  • James Louder says:

    Could it be that Mr. Cerny is simply doing what thousands of Americans now dream of: fleeing Trump’s America for Canada, when the chance presents itself? The Calgary post surely offers a fast track to permanent residence, and eventually citizenship–in a peaceful country with universal health care, sensible gun laws, safe cities, progressive social policies, and a sane banking system. That’s not just for himself, but for his family too. You can’t put a price on that.

    Calgary Opera may be small, Canada has seen many an organization pass from local noise to world class under leaders coming from abroad with the vision to make it happen. Ozawa with the Toronto Symphony, Dutoit with Montreal, or the great Celia Franca, who created the National Ballet ‘ex nihilo.’ Behind these great artists were equally visionary managers who knew how the rest of the job gets done. I think Keith Cerny will do very well–and so will Calgary Opera.

    • David Speers says:

      …… a voice of reason on this topic, finally. As the former General Director at Calgary Opera for ten years, who left to become GD at the much larger Arizona Opera in 1998 ………… I can assure you, COA is a wonderful company — innovative, forward-thinking, and financially secure. Although my 5 years in Arizona presented a wonderful experience and many new opportunities at that point in my career, …… once I had achieved what was going to be possible there, I left to return to Canada with Opera Ontario for another 10 year stint as GD. I’m a proud Canadian and appreciate how lucky we are in so many ways, living in this country.

      Opera is a truly international, complex and sometimes very challenging business, and I know from personal experience that a lot of factors come in to play, should we be so fortunate to be offered these positions. It’s frivolous to jump to conclusions as to why people make the decisions they do.

  • Ann Taylor says:

    Keith Cerny has made many enemies in Dallas.

    He can be rude, unpleasant and is typically dismissive of other Dallas Arts Groups. He has continued to insult the DSO and refuse to even attend Arts Group meetings.

    I do not wish to malign his financial or management contributions but this is no surprise to many of us.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    …or maybe he just wants to ease up after seven years in Dallas (and he can afford to do it!). North Texas is dripping with dollars, but it’s not always easy dealing with our local billionaires (see Darren Woods, formerly of Fort Worth Opera).

  • Kerrin Meis says:

    Wish I could go to Canada and a sane life. BRAVO Keith

  • BillG says:

    There may be an issue of a lawsuit over age discrimination. A case is scheduled to begin taking depositions on Jan 10. Cerny is cutting ties to the Dallas Opera on Jan 5 and moving to Calgary at that time.

    It’s perfect fodder for conspiracy types. Guy leaves Dallas to move to Calgary at the height of winter. If he is ensconced in Calgary, can the local courts compel him to be disposed. If it’s age discrimination, it may be a Federal Civil Suit rather than local courts. Still does raise the question for someone knowledgeable in such matters to answer Let the pot be stirred.

  • Mr. Schwa says:

    This entire affair has been so upsetting that I have not slept in weeks. This rivals the magnitude of the JFK assassination conundrum [which also took place in Dallas]. I also just heard that Peter Gelb is leaving the Met, and will become the General Director of Long Beach Opera!! Is this fake news??!!

  • Carolyn Bradley says:

    The female president of the board approached him in December telling him to be nicer to his staff as they were about to resign. He told her F you, she told him F you and you’re fired. We say good riddance.