Update: We've spoken with both Enrique Carreón-Robledo and David Douglas, chair of the Opera in the Heights Board of Directors. Jump to the end of the story to see what they have to say.
We've just confirmed that Opera in the Heights and Artistic Director/Conductor Enrique Carreón-Robledo have parted ways. An official announcement has not been made as of yet, but one is expected soon. OH! Manager of Operations Mariam Khalili confirmed Carreón-Robledo's departure and said simply:
"The organization and Enrique decided to part ways, going in different directions."
Khalili declined to make any further statement.
Carreón-Robledo and Opera in the Heights were well known to Houston Press readers. Under his direction the company won Most Improved Company at the 2012 Houston Theater Awards, then went on to 2013 MasterMind Award.
We're reaching out to both members of the Opera in the Heights Board of Directors and Carreon-Robledo and will update this story as soon as we have more to report.
UPDATE: 5:45 p.m. We've spoken with both now former artistic director Enrique Carreon-Robledo and the board of the directors chairman David Douglas.
On Tuesday evening, vice-chairman of the OH! board of directors Josh Abrams phoned Carreon-Robledo and told him the board was making a change in direction and that he was fired as artistic director. "My tenure with the company from April, 2011, lasted three years, nine months and six days," he tells us. "During that tenure, I put my very best effort to do the highest quality job that I could possibly do. I invested my heart and soul, all of my abilities to the company and it is devastating to have come to this conclusion."
He says he was given very little information as to the reason for the change. "The only reason that I was given was that the board has decided to change direction."
David Douglas tells us that Opera in the Heights wanted to start moving in a new direction. Among the changes the company will be making, Douglas notes, are a stronger focus on local talent, shorter operas (audience surveys found OH! fans thought operas were too long) and operas more suited to the small Lambert Hall stage.
"We have HGO and the Moores School in Houston. Rice is also very involved in the opera community. Opera in the Heights is trying to make sure that we're relevant in the Houston opera community and that we target the right thing for us and the right thing for people who love this art in a way that will attract them to our stage."
"There was not an issue of the quality of performances. It was really a matter of defining who we are and how we stay relevant. Part of our mission is to showcase emerging artists, certainly, but we also want to give beginning artists a platform.
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The decision to terminate Carreon-Robledo comes after long deliberation, Douglas says. "We've been in this process for many months, figuring out how we stay relevant in the community. It's not about a season, it's not about a performance. It's about reflection in defining who we are in the community."
Asked if the planned changes were discussed with Carreon-Robledo, if any attempt to accomplish the new goals with him still in place was made, Douglas declines to be specific. "We felt like it was time to make a change in fulfillment of our new direction."
Eiki Isomura, currently the director of the orchestra program at Lone Star College - Montgomery, will step in to conduct the remainder of this season including Peter Brock's shorter, reimagined version of Carmen.
Carreon-Robledo reflects on this year's productions saying, "Rigoletto was a good start to the season. We had two fantastic singers in the lead role which led to a great production. Rigoletto was about as big as we could get with our [stage]. I was very happy with Rigoletto, but to me our greatest success was Hansel und Gretel. It was the biggest challenge that the company has faced. I am very, very happy with the results and in hindsight, if this turns out to be my swan song, I couldn't have wished for anything better."