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‘End of an era’ – artistic director to leave State Opera

State Opera South Australia artistic director Stuart Maunder will leave the company next year to take up a new role with Victorian Opera, it was announced this afternoon.

Maunder, a former executive producer at Opera Australia and general director at Opera New Zealand, joined State Opera in 2018.

The announcement that he will leave in mid-2023 to become artistic director of Victorian Opera comes soon after the departure of State Opera executive director Yarmila Alfonzetti. After joining the company at the same time as Maunder, Alfonzetti moved to Brisbane to begin a new job this month as chief executive of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

State Opera has described Maunder’s impending departure as the end of an era, saying he and Alfonzetti had “re-invented opera in South Australia”.

Chair of the State Opera board John Irving said it was a tribute to the company and its success over the past four years that both had been “headhunted” to major companies in Brisbane and Melbourne.

“State Opera South Australia will now embark on this next period, excited by the opportunities that flow from changing these senior roles. We look forward to announcing the new executive director very soon,” he said.

During his term as artistic director Maunder has sought to broaden the opera audience with productions such as the outdoor show Carmen in the Square in Victoria Square in 2019, and Bohème on the Beach at Glenelg in March this year. A planned production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at Memorial Drive in 2020 was one of the first Adelaide live performances canceled due to COVID-19.

Opera under the stars with Bohème on the Beach at Glenelg. Photo: Soda Street Productions

Other operas programmed by Maunder in recent years range from The Mikado and Sweeney Todd to a concert version of the musical Carousel and a chamber opera adaptation of Ray Lawler’s 1955 play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (which had its season curtailed by pandemic restrictions). He also introduced the “Lost Operas of Oz” series to champion Australian works that have rarely – if ever – been presented since their original production, including, most recently, Voss.

“These past four years have been some of the greatest times in my career and I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve – despite the challenges of a global pandemic,” Maunder said in a statement.

“I leave State Opera South Australia poised on the brink of an exciting new chapter in its nearly 50-year history, grateful to have played a small part in shaping one of the country’s truly unique companies.”

The company said the search for a new executive director was in its final stages, and it will wait until the appointee arrives before starting the process of finding a new artistic director.

It added that Maunder’s final season for State Opera will be announced “in the near future and will include major operatic works and a festival”.

The company’s next work for 2022 will be the co-production The Traviataset to open at Her Majesty’s Theater on August 25 with London-based Australian soprano Lauren Fagan making her Australian operatic debut as Violetta.

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