Opera Grand Rapids hires artistic director


James Meena. Courtesy Opera Grand Rapids

West Michigan’s professional opera company has hired an artistic director with conducting and leadership experience at institutions all over the world.

Opera Grand Rapids said this month it named James Meena to the creative leadership role.

Meena also serves as general director and principal conductor for Opera Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina and principal artistic advisor for the Toledo Opera.

Artistic direction

Beginning with the 2017-18 season, Meena will head Opera Grand Rapids’ programming and educational initiatives as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary.

His duties will include choosing repertoire, selecting guest artists and production teams, auditioning singers alongside Opera Grand Rapids Chorus Master Patrick Coyle and ensuring the artistic excellence of all Opera Grand Rapids productions and programs. Meena will also assist with outreach and patron relations.

“Given his extensive expertise and proven accomplishments, maestro Meena was a clear choice to fill our needs in the areas of artistic leadership with enhanced community engagement,” Opera Grand Rapids Board President Bob Evett said. “He will be instrumental in crafting and implementing our vision for the company.”

Opera Grand Rapids plans to implement a new five-year plan under Meena’s leadership, and Meena said he is “abuzz” with ideas for expanding the reach of the opera in the community.

Meena’s background

A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio, Meena has been a frequent guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the U.S., Italy, Taipei, South Korea, Canada and Mexico.

He has held principal and resident conducting posts at the Cleveland Ballet, Toledo Symphony and Toledo Opera.

He’s conducted for the New York City Opera, a nationally televised Thanksgiving concert for the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony, performances with the National Symphony Orchestra in Taiwan, concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in the new Cairo Opera House and symphony concerts with the orchestra of the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, Italy and the Orchestra Regionale Toscana in Florence, Italy.

Opera Grand Rapids

Opera Grand Rapids, founded in 1966, is based at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center in Grand Rapids.

The company engages a cast of international artists, stage directors, conductors, choreographers, set designers, costume designers and others.

The opera will kick off its 50th anniversary this year, mounting two large-scale productions at DeVos Performance Hall and a chamber opera at its home location, which will feature newly installed theater seats, a gala celebration and other activities. 

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