The board of Mobile Opera terminated the position of artistic director at an April 14 board meeting, the result of a budget crunch and uncertain venue status. Andy Anderson, who has served in the role since August 2008, was apprised of the situation and submitted his resignation.
“He’s been a gentleman, been good to Mobile Opera,” Mobile Opera General Director Scott Wright said. “We’ve been really happy with what he did.”
Anderson was previously artistic director of the Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City, assistant conductor for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and music director for the Kansas City, Mo. Civic Orchestra.The last year has been tumultuous for the fine arts mainstay, recognized by Opera America as the nation’s 15th oldest opera organization. They were caught unaware when the mayor’s office told Mardi Gras organizations at the end of 2014 that the Mobile Civic Center would be shuttered. Mobile Opera, along with Mobile Ballet depend on the complex’s theater as their venue.
“We’re working on a change in our structure,” Wright said. “We’re trying to be proactive with regard to the closing of the Civic Center and the rising costs there.”
Wright also noted a general restructuring of Mobile Opera is needed. He hinted at rising overall costs for the productions and a possible new format.
“We’re trying to do some things that will be quality opera like we’ve been doing, but it will be a smaller audience settings with the actors in the room with the patrons,” Wright said. “It’s not the normal thing Andy has done. We don’t have the same needs as far as our production team.”
Wright mentioned overlapping duties as a cause for the position’s eradication. He declined to disclose the money saved by redlining the artistic director’s seat.
“The opera is in very, very serious financial trouble, so that was where they were going to start cutting costs,” said John Hafner, a longtime board member. “Most of the people in the room were pleased with Andy and supportive of him.”
Hafner said he was so upset by the development that he and another member resigned their positions. The former Spring Hill College professor was one of a small group who traveled west to survey Anderson’s work following the 2007 resignation announcement of previous artistic director Jerome Shannon.
This rough financial patch isn’t the first for Mobile Opera. A deficit occurred during the 2003-05 seasons, estimated at $150,000 at one point. Following poor attendance at a Hurricane Ivan-delayed concert featuring mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, then-Mobile Opera Executive Michelle Kitson resigned.
More on this story to follow in the next print issue of Lagniappe.