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SF Opera Reorganizes Training Programs

August 21, 2020

SFO General Director Matthew Shilvock announced the appointment of Carrie-Ann Matheson as artistic director of the San Francisco Opera Center, succeeding Sheri Greenawald whose tenure as SF Opera Center director and artistic leader of the Merola Opera Program concludes in December 2020 with her retirement after 18 years on the job. The changes affect the organization and future of the SF Opera Center and its two interlinked programs, the Adler Fellowship, and Merola Opera Program.

The second appointment is that of Markus Beam as general manager of the Opera Center.

In the new structure, Matheson will do much more hands-on coaching than Greenawald could, because of her handling of administrative functions which now devolve largely to Beam. However, Beam is also going to take a hand in advising the Adler Fellows on repertoire and providing career guidance.

SF Opera Artistic Managing Director Gregory Henkel, whose portfolio includes the training programs, responded to questions from SF Classical Voice by saying that in the “restructuring, overlapping skill sets” were considered, so Mark Morash and Chris Bragg were notified last week that their positions were abolished, the new appointments subsuming their functions.

Morash has been SF Opera Center Director of Musical Studies since 1998, and Bragg, who has been with the Opera Center for 20 years, in a number of positions, most recently Administrative Director.

Henkel said: “Carrie-Ann and Markus’s joyous and caring collegiality are a treasure. I admire their deep knowledge of the art form, formidable talents, and exceptional experience, which offer unique insight and ability to nurture and launch the next generation of great artists. Together they combine internationally sought-after musical training and top-tier artistic management with both serious rigor and sensitive compassion.”

Of Matheson, Joseph So’s interview with her recently says: “For pianist-vocal coach Carrie-Ann Matheson, the biblical saying that ‘a prophet is not honored in his own land’ has a certain ring of truth, in her case musically. She’s virtually unknown in Canada, even though she’s that rare bird — a Canadian pianist/opera coach working internationally, and at the highest level.”

Matheson has a distinguished international career as pianist, conductor, and coach. She began at the Metropolitan Opera as a participant in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and moved to full-time member of the music staff where she served as assistant conductor, prompter, pianist, and vocal coach.

Besides the Lindemann, Matheson worked with the Young Artist Program (Metropolitan Opera), International Opera Studio (Opernhaus Zürich), Ryan Opera Center (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Music Academy of the West, the Aspen Music Festival, the International Vocal Arts Institute, and the Atkins Young Artist Program at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater.

In 2014, Matheson was appointed to the staff of Opernhaus Zürich, and continued to expand her international performing career as both a conductor and recital pianist. She has assisted some of the world’s leading opera conductors, including Fabio Luisi, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Gianandrea Noseda and has performed in recital with Rolando Villazón, Jonas Kaufmann, and Piotr Beczala, among others.

Beam, a 2002 Merola baritone alumnus, is Vice President/Artist Manager at IMG Artists; he describes himself in these terms on his IMG website:

As a Certified Life Coach, I’ve developed specific tools to help you connect with your intuition to build on strengths and change negative patterns. Working as an Artist Manager has grounded me in the realities of the business of the arts and the specific demands of an artist’s career.

Through my work as a performance coach, I've learned there is no catch-all, cookie-cutter approach for personal and artistic development, nor should there be.

In addition to my coaching, performing, and management experience, I've been a lifelong student of psychology and spiritual practices, which led me to the field of holistic transformational coaching. I'm honored to use my varied experience and diverse skill set to empower artists who are passionate about expressing themselves fully.”

The Opera Center is the umbrella organization for the Merola Program, created in 1954 by SFO General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, and the Adler Fellowship, named for him, established by Adler’s successor, Terence A. McEwen, in 1977.

“Along with heading the SF Opera Center and its flagship Adler Fellowship Program,” says the announcement, “Matheson and Beam will also develop and lead all artistic, production and curricula aspects of the Merola Opera Program.

“Due to the cancellation of Merola’s 2020 season, this year’s Merola class has been invited back for next summer’s program under Matheson and Beam’s artistic direction. All current Adler Fellows have been granted a continuation of their fellowships for 2021 and will begin working with the new Opera Center leadership team in January.”

While the Opera House is dark for the rest of the year and the Merola season is postponed to 2021, work continues with the Adlers, led by SF Opera Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim, who has regular virtual coaching sessions from wherever she is, most recently in Houston and Seoul.

The announcement specifically mentions Head of Music Staff John Churchwell and Head of Vocal Studies César Ulloa remaining in their positions.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].