”Opera must speak to our time and place”
The Board of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet Foundation made a unanimous decision about the appointment in a meeting on Tuesday 11 October 2022. From the many candidates, opera director Thomas de Mallet Burgess was the one who best fulfilled the criteria of the international recruitment process. He has excellent leadership skills and the artistic vision and talent needed for developing the opera art form, while introducing it to new, broader audiences. Along with an extensive professional network, he also has a track record in financially sound long-term planning.
“Finnish National Opera has a sustained and distinguished record of achievement. I am excited by the ambition of the company to develop and renew traditions and support its values of artistic excellence and collaboration. I believe that opera must speak to our time and place and look forward to working with the talented and committed community at Finnish National Opera and Ballet to explore what this means for artists and audiences in Finland including approaches to core repertoire, new work, site-specific work and digital work. It is an honour to be appointed to this role”, says the future Artistic Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess.
”Thomas has an impressively deep and broad understanding of the opera art form and a strong vision of its role in our society. He is particularly interested in how the audience experiences the performance. I’m delighted about this appointment and believe the Finnish National Opera will attract new, ever more diverse audiences during Thomas’s tenure”, says General Director Gita Kadambi.
Thomas de Mallet Burgess (b. 1964) is currently General Director (the artistic and organisational lead) at New Zealand Opera. Prior to this, he worked as Artistic Director of Lost & Found Opera, an opera company he founded in Australia, and as Creative Director of Ireland’s National Opera House in Wexford. He is an internationally renowned expert in performing arts training and education, and a regular visiting artist at universities and conservatories. In his work, he places importance on diversity, inclusion, and embedding the organisations he leads in their local culture and communities.
The appointment decision was preceded by a hearing of the personnel groups of the Finnish National Opera. While the orchestra, the largest of the groups, was in favour of the appointment, the singers gave a neutral statement, and the rest of the creative personnel were in favour with reservations. Among others, the latter group includes directorial assistants, pianists, line prompters and choirmasters.
”The Finnish National Opera is a large work community that brings together a wide variety of professionals, who are all passionate about their work. It’s understandable that the appointment of a new Artistic Director prompts a wealth of opinions, even concerns. I’ve discussed the issues with the creative groups, and we’ve come to a good mutual understanding about Thomas being appointed after a thorough recruitment process based on his artistic vision and leadership skills. I’m convinced that, once he gets started, the collaboration will be fruitful,” Gita Kadambi says.
The tenure of the Artistic Director will begin on 1 August 2023. The contract will be for four years until 31 July 2027 with an optional three-year extension. The first repertoire planned entirely by Thomas de Mallet Burgess will be seen in the 2025/26 season.
Opera director Thomas de Mallet Burgess proposed as Artistic Director of Finnish National Opera (published 27 September 2022)