Gockley and HGO

End of the affair?

First we lost longtime ballet boss Ben Stevenson. Then Alley Theatre managing director Paul Tetreault -- the man who invented fiscal stability in the arts here -- announced his move to Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

And now David Gockley, Houston Grand Opera's general director, is being touted as a possible replacement for Joseph Volpe, the retiring general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The New York Times reported that several "classical music professionals" have mentioned Gockley, along with William Mason of Chicago's Lyric Opera, as a "leading contender" for Volpe's job. The paper also mentioned that, at 60, Gockley may be too old for the Met post.

"I don't think so," says Marc Scorca, president and CEO of the Opera America organization, which includes HGO in its membership. "I think the most important criterion is skill." And Gockley does have the chops for the task. At 27, he became HGO's youngest general director and was instrumental in making Houston the home of innovative new opera. Next month's End of the Affair marks HGO's 29th world premiere.

"Of course [Gockley] would be a natural candidate for the job," says Houston Ballet managing director Cecil C. Conner Jr. "But it would be a pity to lose him."

Would he consider going, though? While there have been lots of leave-takings lately, many of Houston's art jefes wouldn't consider going elsewhere. Conner himself has twice turned down offers from American Ballet Theatre.

Gockley was vacationing in Mexico and unavailable for comment when news broke about the New York post. The HGO press team declined to comment, as did the Met's media handlers, who said they didn't know about the candidate search.

The Met is the largest, most prestigious opera company in America, with more than 200 performances a year and a budget of $200 million. Opera America's Scorca says the search process could take up to a year, and that Volpe would stay on at the Met for two more years.

So far, there's no indication that Gockley would leave the company he built. As one HGO board member put it, "It just wouldn't be Houston Grand Opera without him."

 
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