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 for the company, heading a leadership team that includes Opera Theatre’s Music Director Stephen Lord and Artistic Director James Robinson.
During Mr. O’Leary’s tenure, Opera Theatre has continued to earn international acclaim for its innovative programming and has achieved sustained growth in new audiences. The company has also set new records for fundraising; annual contributions have grown by more than 26% during his tenure, to exceed $5.2 million per year. The company’s endowment fund has also grown by more than 70%, to exceed $28 million.
Under Mr. O’Leary’s leadership, Opera Theatre launched its New Works, Bold Voices series in 2013, a cycle of world premiere American operas that embrace diverse cultural and musical 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 Opera Theatre history. The Chicago Tribune described the opera as “a new work of quality and staying power, one that deserves to be taken up by other opera producers far and wide,” writing that “Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has done more on behalf of contemporary and 20th century opera than perhaps any major U.S. regional company.” The second opera in the cycle, “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 series continues in 2016 with Shalimar the Clown by Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph, inspired by Salman Rushdie’s novel of the same name.
Also during Mr. O’Leary’s tenure, Opera Theatre has continued to present important but under-produced works, such as the first new North American production of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffersince its original 1991 staging. James Robinson’s 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 both the community engagement projects surrounding the opera and the resulting collaboration with civic and arts leaders to establish an annual September 11th concert called “An Interfaith Commemoration in Music.” Further recognition for Opera Theatre’s work under Mr. O’Leary’s leadership 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.
Before his appointment as General Director, Mr. O’Leary served as Opera Theatre’s Executive Director, working with outgoing General Director Charles MacKay. Previously, he was part of the senior management team at New York City Opera under General and Artistic Director Paul Kellogg, and was the first Managing Director of New York’s celebrated Gotham Chamber Opera. While at Gotham, he worked with Artistic Director Neal Goren to produce American premieres by Handel and Sutermeister and collaborated with the Lincoln Center Festival and the Spoleto Festival USA. Mr. O’Leary’s fundraising experience also includes assignments for New York’s Theatre for a New Audience and Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre Company.
Mr. O’Leary has also worked as a staff stage director for companies including New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and others. His training includes an apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, graduate studies in Theatre Management at Columbia University, and an undergraduate degree in English and Drama from Dartmouth College. 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.