American Opera Projects Names New Leadership Beginning 2019-2020
AOP Producing Director Matt Gray promoted to General Director
Mila Henry to serve as first Artistic Director in more than a decade
Current General Director Charles Jarden to guide transition
Brooklyn, NY - American Opera Projects (AOP)’s Board of Directors announced today the appointment of two new inspiring, artistic leaders who will continue the organization’s 30-year legacy of creating contemporary opera in the US. Effective July 1, 2019, Matt Gray, who currently serves as AOP’s Producing Director, will become General Director, and Mila Henry will join the company as Artistic Director.
Sarah Moulton Faux, of the AOP Board of Directors, said, “It was a unanimous decision on the part of the Board to appoint Matt as the next General Director both for continuity of AOPs mission but also for his innovative vision to keep the organization at the cutting edge as we move into the future. Both he and Mila have been incredible assets to the AOP team under Charles Jarden's skilled leadership, and we look forward to continuing AOP's legacy of groundbreaking new works.”
Matt Gray will be the third General Director in the Brooklyn non-profit’s 30-year history, following Grethe Barrett Holby, who founded AOP in 1988, and current General Director Charles Jarden who has led the company since 2002. Jarden will help guide the organization’s leadership transition in the newly-created role of Director of Strategic Partnerships. Mila Henry will be the company’s first Artistic Director since Steven Osgood held the position from 2002-2008.
Matt Gray currently serves as AOP’s Producing Director, where he oversees production of the company’s workshops, programs, and premieres. He began at AOP as an office manager in 2003 while working on independent films and theatre in New York City. He was later promoted to Projects Manager and then, in 2008, Producing Director. He will continue to serve as Head of Drama for AOP's opera writing training program Composers & the Voice and as the company’s resident dramaturg and stage director. Gray was chosen as a participant in OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive for 2019, a program designed to identify and bolster the careers of the most promising professionals in the field of opera.
Mila Henry, “a stalwart contributor to the contemporary opera scene” (Opera Ithaca), comes to the Artistic Director position as a sought-after interpreter of new theatrical works spanning opera, musical theater, chamber music, and hybrids of all three. Henry worked at AOP from 2010-2014 where she rose from Artistic Intern to Resident Music Director before leaving to pursue an active freelance career. As a music director, pianist, and vocal coach, she has shaped new operas with the American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, PROTOTYPE, and Opera on Tap, among others, while continuing to work with AOP on various projects and serving as Head of Music for its Composers & the Voice training program.
“Matt Gray and Mila Henry represent a new generation in contemporary opera management,” said General Director Charles Jarden. “It has been a privilege for me to have collaborated so closely with Matt over the last fifteen years. He knows our company inside and out, is well-respected by the Board, and understands the Brooklyn community and the Company’s unique place in the culture of new opera. Along with Mila Henry, I know the company will be in great hands. I look forward to jumping in immediately and helping to launch a new era.”
Matt Gray’s appointment follows Charles Jarden’s announcement earlier in the year to the AOP Board his intention to step down as General Director. Jarden will remain with the company to complete strategic initiatives. Under Jarden’s leadership, American Opera Projects grew into a leading force in contemporary opera, with innovative shows and development, training, and community programs that have received national attention.
Gray has said he is committed to continuing "AOP's legacy of programming that exemplifies the wide range of the music theater form, from small, experimental chamber works to grand, classical operas, "while playing around more with cross-genre pieces, new media, and live experiences that defy categorization. We will continue to be a home for artists to learn, experiment, and create, a voice in our neighborhood, and a fearless producer of new works. And we will be building a staff that reflects the diversity of our audience and our Brooklyn community. I’m grateful to Charles and the AOP board for this amazing opportunity to lead the company that I have loved being a part of for so many years and supporting my vision for AOP’s next chapter.”
Henry says, “As someone who has known AOP both artistically and administratively, I am honored to have the trust of Charles and the AOP board to guide the company into this new stage alongside the leadership of Matt Gray. I look forward to renewing AOP’s mission as a producer and promoter of new opera and music theatre works, and to drawing attention to how those two delineations intersect. AOP has a thirty-year history, and I’m excited to redefine our present while bringing our acclaimed past into a prosperous future.”
ABOUT MATT GRAY
Matt Gray has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Directing from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He began at American Opera Projects in 2003 never having seen an opera, but quickly relied on his background in film and theatre to develop AOP projects from the point of view of an audience member unfamiliar with opera, but well-versed in popular entertainment and modern storytelling.
Outside of his opera producing, he has continued to work as a writer and director for numerous concerts, cabarets, and plays around NYC. He was the co-writer and co-director of the 12-part serialized play Penny Dreadful which ran at the Brick Theater in Brooklyn for two years and was also one of five directors on the award-winning indie horror anthology film The Moose Head Over the Mantel, which will be released on Blu-Ray and streaming in January 2019.
In May 2019, Gray will direct the chamber opera As One at Kaufman Music Center in a co-production with AOP and New York City Opera. He previously directed it at Chautauqua Opera in 2018 with Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf and its European premiere in Berlin (2016).
ABOUT MILA HENRY
A versatile player, Mila Henry has collaborated with numerous companies in the opera and theater world, including the American Lyric Theater; Beth Morrison Projects, HERE and PROTOTYPE (traveling to LA Opera with Thumbprint); Experiments in Opera; OPERA America (premiering the song cycle Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin at Library of Congress); Opera on Tap; Opera Philadelphia (traveling to Dutch National Opera with We Shall Not Be Moved); and Pittsburgh CLO. She recently led the hybrid music-theater event Words on the Street (Baruch Performing Arts Center) and will helm the double bill Liberation/Enchantress at Opera Ithaca this April. She served as Vocal Director for the Obie-winning folk opera The World is Round (Ripe Time), and regularly rearranges the classics with the band Opera Cowgirls.
At American Opera Projects, Mila Henry has served as an Assistant Producer for Out Cold (BAM); Orchestra Contractor for Model Love (Lincoln Center); Assistant Conductor for As One (BAM), The Blind (Lincoln Center) and Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center); Répétiteur for In the Penal Colony; and Music Director for three seasons of AOP’s opera writing lab at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.
Mila holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Elizabethtown College, and will continue to expand her own professional career while fulfilling her new duties at AOP. www.milahenry.com
ABOUT AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS
Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, American Opera Projects (AOP) is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement through its commissioning, developing, and producing of opera and music theatre projects, training programs for student and emerging composers and librettists, and community engagement.
The company is recognized for its cross-genre experimentation in works such as Darkling (Weisman/Rabinowitz, 2006), an interdisciplinary work combining poetry, music and projection, and the dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (Davis/Pelsue, BAM, 2015); stories of African-American history including The Summer King (Sonenberg/Nester/Campbell, Pittsburgh Opera, 2017) and Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Okoye, Irondale, 2014); and numerous groundbreaking works on LGBTQ themes like Paul’s Case (Spears/Walat, UrbanArias, 2015), Patience & Sarah (Kimper/Persons, Lincoln Center Festival, 1998) and As One (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed, BAM, 2014), the most widely produced contemporary opera in the U.S. and Canada during the 2017–2018 season.
Recent AOP world premieres include Savage Winter (Pittsburgh Opera, 2018), The Echo Drift (PROTOTYPE Festival 2018), and Three Way (Nashville Opera & BAM 2017). Later this season, AOP will present the world premiere of the Georgia O’Keeffe opera Today It Rains, in a co-production with San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle, and a collection of performances in New York City that will honor the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising including four mini-operas about Stonewall made in collaboration with NYU Tisch School of the Arts, a new production of Patience & Sarah at Hunter College, and a touring version of As One. A celebration of AOP’s thirty years will be held in the spring and hosted by AOP Board Member Anthony Roth Costanzo. www.aopopera.org