First, don’t panic. The indefatigable David DiChiera will not be abandoning Michigan Opera Theatre any time soon. MOT announced today that Dr. DiChiera, who has been carrying two full-time jobs as Artistic Director and General Director, plans in the next year to transition into full time focus on his position as Artistic Director. MOT has begun the process of searching for a successor to the General Director half of Dr. DiChiera’s responsibilities. In the same announcement, DiChiera acknowledged that he has begun a program of radiation treatment for prostate cancer, for which his prognosis is deemed "excellent."
In the summer of 2010, we were delighted to report that David DiChiera had been named as one of the recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Opera Honors – the opera world’s most prestigious award. Detroit music enthusiasts and, it seems, the rest of the country, understand how essential Dr. DiChiera’s passion, vision and boundless energy have been, not only to MOT, but to the cultural and economic vitality of Detroit.
Now that MOT is well on its way to financial stability, owing to a huge effort by Dr. DiChiera and the MOT board, it is most satisfying to know that he will be focusing 100% of his talents on the creative side of the house.
"David is our founder and has been the visionary leader for everything that has happened at the Opera House for over 40 years," said R. J. "Rick" Williams, MOT Chairman. "We have always known the day would come when David would want to scale back his responsibilities, and that when it does we would split David's role into two positions, that of an Executive Director and an Artistic Director. It has always been too much for one person, but David's a superman kind of guy and he always wanted to do it all."
Williams said that he and the board have had initial discussions on the search and that he is in the process of organizing a search committee. "David is a beloved figure in our community and we don't take the job of replacing him - or even half of him - lightly. This has been in our thinking for quite a while," Williams said, "but we didn't want to do anything until we had our financial house in order. We were able to accomplish that with our successful debt restructuring this summer."
An artistic and civic visionary, David DiChiera is known for his unrelenting determination and willingness to take risks. In 1971, he founded Michigan Opera Theatre. Two years later, he spearheaded the establishment of the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, for which he was named Founding Artistic Director. Saving Music Hall from becoming a parking lot is widely considered the first step in building an entertainment district in the city of Detroit.
DiChiera's dream for a world-class opera house for the opera company became a reality in 1996, after a Herculean fundraising campaign and the restoration of the abandoned Grand Circus Theater, now named the Detroit Opera House. The Detroit Opera House not only serves as the home to the opera company, but also presents the world's great dance companies, touring Broadway presentations and myriad special events. Its opening served as the catalyst for the further revitalization of Detroit's sports and entertainment district.
Under David DiChiera's leadership, MOT has become one of the country's leading regional opera companies, earning an international reputation as a producer of rarely performed operas and a great supporter of minority artists, and has served as a launching pad for many of today's great opera stars. In addition to his role as general director, DiChiera is also an accomplished musician and composer, having composed several works, including his acclaimed opera, “Cyrano.”
"MOT has been my life for nearly half a century," DiChiera said, "but at my heart, I'm an artist and the art of opera is what I love most. I'm excited by the prospect of being able to focus more of my time on the artistic side of the company while at the same time being able to provide support and guidance to our new Executive Director. I look forward to working with Rick and the board to find the best fit for the Opera House and for Detroit. There are a lot of good and talented people out there. Our goal is to find the very best – someone who will help sustain and enhance MOT's role as one of Detroit's premier cultural institutions."