Austin Opera's Joseph Specter Departing

General director since 2012 is off to lead Arizona Opera

Joseph Specter
Joseph Specter

Almost four years to the day after he joined the staff of Austin Opera as general director, Joseph Specter has tendered his resignation. This summer, he'll be moving west to take over as president and general director of Arizona Opera.

Austin Opera announced the change Friday just as news was breaking in Phoenix and Tucson that Specter would be filling the shoes of Ryan Taylor, who moves to Minnesota Opera this month after four years in Arizona. The move is definitely a step up for Specter, who will go from managing a $3.8 million company here to one with a budget of $5.5 million in Arizona. He'll also have a greater hand in the artistic direction of the 45-year-old company, which recently instituted a new Arizona Bold initiative that programs more contemporary work and work that speaks to the region's Latino population.

Specter landed in Texas just after Austin Opera has pulled itself out of difficult financial straits by selling its headquarters on Barton Springs Road, letting go of its Armstrong Community Music School, and cutting the number of productions back from four to three and the number of performances for each production. During his tenure, Specter was able to bolster the company's finances, getting annual ticket sales back above the $1 million mark and boosting the budget by 30%, as well as adding back a fourth production of sorts each season. The first was a gala concert featuring star sopranos, but the gala opening the 2016-17 season will be a semi-staged performance of a new opera, The Manchurian Candidate, composed by former Austin resident Kevin Puts – a measure of how much the company been able to entice its audience into showing up for more than the standard operatic repertoire in recent years.

In a press release from Austin Opera, Specter is quoted as saying how much the company has meant to him and to his wife, Kate Kinhan, and their two daughters: “I will be forever grateful to the staff and board of Austin Opera. My family has loved being a part of this wonderful community, and I am so proud of what we’ve all accomplished at Austin Opera.”

Specter's last day with the company is June 30. Austin Opera board and staff members have already assembled a transition team and will announce plans for moving forward soon. For more information, visit the Austin Opera website.

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Austin Opera, Joseph Specter, Arizona Opera, Kevin Puts, The Manchurian Candidate, Armstrong Community Music School

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