Photo by Cory Weaver/San Francisco OperaFrom left: Opera Association President Keith Geeslin

Photo by Cory Weaver/San Francisco OperaFrom left: Opera Association President Keith Geeslin

Acclaimed S.F. Opera boss to depart

Known around the world as a (soft-spoken) lion among art managers, S.F. Opera general director David Gockley announced his retirement today, effective in 2016, promising “surprises coming in the next 22 months because I am not going out like a lamb.”

Almost uniquely in the volatile world of opera, Gockley is leaving on his own volition, and to the regret of the board, the staff, and even usually hyper-critical music critics.

At a press conference in the War Memorial, as praise was heaped on Gockley, he said that after 44 years as a top arts executive and what will be a decade-long appointment here in 2016 as he is turning 73, there should be a “new leader with fresh ideas, energy, eyes, and ears.” No CEO should stay more than 10 years (in any business), he added, although he headed the Houston Grand Opera for 33, making it a major, pioneering company with the presentation of new works.

Music Director Nicola Luisotti, hired by Gockley, called him a “living legend.” S.F. Opera Association President Keith Geeslin credited Gockley with turning the company around from a dangerous fiscal crisis that coincided with the Recession of 2009.

Back then, Gockley warned that “The ‘business as usual’ model will cripple San Francisco opera in the next two years if there is not major change.” By handling complex labor contracts to general satisfaction, and raising tens of millions of dollars in contributions, Gockley made that change happen, and the company is in good shape today.

During his intendancy, the company presented world-famous singers in classical operas and commissioned bold new works. He initiated free live streamings of opera in AT&T Park and elsewhere, created a media center to capture performances for broadcast, telecast, DVDs, and Blu-ray.

At the request of the board, Gockley will plan two seasons beyond this retirement, and conclude the 2018 season with a revival of his biggest, most successful project, Richard Wagner’s 16-hour tetralogy of the “Ring of the Nibelung.”

When the company presented three cycles of the massive “Ring” in 2011, thousands of visitors from the US and abroad contributed millions of dollars to The City’s hotel and restaurant businesses.

Gockley said he will maintain his Sausalito residence in his retirement.

artsClassical Music & OperaDavid GockleyS.F. Opera

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read