OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, is pleased to announce that seven new members were elected to the Board of Directors during the organization's recent annual conference in Los Angeles. The newly elected members are J.A. "Gus" Blanchard, Gregory Carpenter, Rena M. DeSisto, David B. Devan, Allen R. Freedman, Jake Heggie and Andreas Mitisek.
"I am delighted to welcome these outstanding new members to the Board of Directors," stated OPERA America President and CEO Marc A. Scorca. "These seven individuals come from a wide range of backgrounds - each bringing a different, specific set of skills and experiences to OPERA America as we look to the future from our 40th year of leading and serving the opera community."
Board Chairman Anthony Freud, general director of Houston Grand Opera, was also elected to a second two-year term as chairman. Current Board member Carol Penterman, CEO and executive director of Nashville Opera, was appointed to serve as the next treasurer.
The OPERA America Board of Directors meets three times per year and oversees the organization's portfolio of programs, including professional development activities, educational offerings and grant opportunities such as The Opera Fund. The next meeting of the Board of Directors will take place in November in San Francisco.
New Board Member Profiles
J.A. "Gus" Blanchard
Although J.A. "Gus" Blanchard retired from full-time employment at the end of 2002, he currently serves as non-executive chairman of the board of ADC Telecommunications of Eden Prairie. Previously, he held chairman & CEO positions at eFunds Corporation (2000-2002), Deluxe Corporation (1995-2000) and Harbridge Merchant Services (1991-1993). His work background also includes 25 years at AT&T and a brief stint at General Instrument Corp. An alumnus of Princeton and MIT Sloan School, he has served on the boards of Wells Fargo & Co. as well as ADC Telecommunications. Opera became his first musical love and passion as a result of the Texaco radio broadcasts in the 1950s. In addition to service with Minnesota Opera that began in 1996, he was a director of New York City Opera for five years, and has sought out opera performances in Europe, Asia and Australia in addition to numerous American venues. He and his wife, Mary, have two married daughters and reside in White Bear Lake, MN.
Gregory Carpenter joined the staff of Opera Colorado as director of development in 2004 and became general director in 2007. He is responsible for overseeing artistic and administrative operations of the company, guiding a staff of seventeen full-time employees. As the director of development, he proved himself as an exemplary leader in the areas of fundraising operations, working with a 45-member governing board and overseeing a full-time professional staff of four. He has successfully generated revenue through special events, donor cultivation, community partnerships and corporate support. Carpenter was the chairman of the fundraising committee for the National Performing Arts Convention. Prior to joining Opera Colorado, he worked for three years as the manager of development with the National Symphony Orchestra at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. There, he worked closely with the National Symphony Orchestra leadership and an 85 member board to achieve and exceed annual fundraising goals averaging $8.9 to $10.5 million.
Rena M. DeSisto
Rena M. DeSisto is head of marketing & corporate affairs for Europe, the Middle East & Africa; and Global Arts & Heritage executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In her marketing & corporate affairs role, DeSisto oversees the company's marketing, sponsorships and philanthropy for the region. In her role of global arts & culture executive, she oversees the programming of Bank of America-related investments in nonprofit arts institutions and the communities they serve. DeSisto also oversees a grant program for nonprofit arts organizations to strengthen their ability to educate and serve their local communities. Previously, DeSisto was philanthropy executive with the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and before that, marketing executive. She served as co-lead on the marketing and communications team that combined Bank of America with Fleet, and which launched the Bank of America brand in the Northeast States. She has also held the position of senior vice president for FleetBoston Financial Corporation, where she oversaw marketing, philanthropy and communications in Metropolitan New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
David B. Devan
David B. Devan arrived at the Opera Company of Philadelphia (OCP) in January 2006 following an extensive search to identify a managing director to oversee all income-generating departments, as well as board development and community programs. In March 2009, OCP's Board of Directors unanimously supported his appointment as executive director. Since his arrival, Devan has worked closely with Board and administration on strategic planning initiatives and building partnerships within the community. Key achievements born out of these initiatives have included the first cycle of the education department's Hip H'Opera collaboration with Arts Sanctuary's after-school program; the successful partnership between OCP, Curtis Institute of Music and Kimmel Center Presents to produce a fully-staged opera each season at the Perelman Theater with joint marketing strength; OCP's selection for a Wallace Foundation Excellence Award to support marketing programs; and a successful $5 million fundraising campaign supporting the company's artistic goals, completed in a most difficult economic climate. A native of Canada, Devan attended Brock University in Ontario and Stanford's University's Graduate School of Business Executive Program.
Allen R. Freedman
Allen Freedman graduated from Tufts University in 1961 and from the University of Virginia Law School in 1964. He also attended New York University Graduate School of Business, studying accounting and banking. In 2000, Freedman was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. Freedman founded Assurant Inc in 1978 and retired as CEO in 2000. He has also been a private equity investor since the 1970s. He previously served as chair of the Board for two public companies, Systems and Computer Technology Corp. and Indus, Inc. He has served as chair of the audit committee of two public companies, currently chairing the audit committee of Stonemor, MLP. He is designated as a "financial expert" by the Stonemor Board for the purposes of the audit committee. At Eaton Vance and Assurant, he is a member of the finance and portfolio management committees, which deal with investment policy and implementation. Freedman and his wife co-founded the annual Freedman Prizes at Hartwick College, which are intended to dramatically reposition the focus of this small liberal arts college in Oneonta, NY. In 2009-2010, over 30 student-faulty fellowships were awarded to stimulate undergraduate/tenured faculty participation in the undergraduate learning experience.
Jake Heggie is the composer of the acclaimed operas Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, The End of the Affair, the lyric drama To Hell and Back and the musical scene At the Statue of Venus. The recipient of a 2005-2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, he has also composed more than 200 songs, as well as concerti, orchestral works and chamber music. His songs, song cycles and operas are championed internationally by singers including Frederica von Stade, Susan Graham, Audra McDonald, Kiri Te Kanawa, Patti LuPone, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Kristin Clayton, Kristine Jepson, Joyce DiDonato, Joyce Castle, Zheng Cao and Bryn Terfel. He has collaborated extensively with conductors Patrick Summers, Nicholas McGegan, John DeMain, Michael Morgan and director Leonard Foglia. Heggie's most recent opera, Moby-Dick, premiered in April 2010 and was commissioned by The Dallas Opera for its inaugural season in the Winspear Opera House. The opera has been co-commissioned by San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera and Calgary Opera. Heggie has also been asked to develop an opera project with playwright Richard Greenberg for the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theatre.
Andreas Mitisek has been the artistic and general director of Long Beach Opera since 2003. There he has conducted a number of productions including Elektra, Bluebeard's Castle, Volo di Notte by Dallapiccola, Jen?fa and The Ring of the Nibelung. He is also increasingly sought after as a guest conductor in North America, leading productions for Seattle Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Vancouver Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater and Yale Opera. A native of Austria, he served as music director of the Wiener Operntheater from 1990-1997, which earned critical and popular acclaim as the foremost contemporary opera company in Austria presenting the world premiere of The Eternal Triangle Trio by Farber, the Austrian premieres and Viennese premieres of Der Reigen by Boesmans, Der Revisor by W. Egk, Oedipe by Enescu, Le Grand Macabre by Ligeti, The Second Mrs. Kong by Birtwistle, Das Schloss by Reimann, Nixon in China by Adams, Death in Venice by Britten and The Devils of Loudon by Penderecki.