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Fort Worth Opera names new general manager, artistic director

– Fort Worth Opera on July 14 announced Tuomas Hiltunen as its new general director. Joe Illick, currently the company’s music director, has been named as artistic director.

Hiltunen joins the Fort Worth Opera from the international Barenboim-Said Foundation where he most recently served as director of administration and management. There, Hiltunen helped grow the foundation’s endowment, advanced its brand, and developed and executed its business plans and strategies. Born and educated in Finland, Hiltunen began his formal theater training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Columbia University. In the following years, he became a lecturer at Barnard College and joined Columbia University as the director of the Finnish Studies Program where he taught Finnish language and culture courses. As a performer, Hiltunen has worked extensively in theater, opera, concerts, television, and film in Finland, England, and the United States. He has performed at the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine, Carnegie Hall with Hannu Lintu, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra with Neeme Järvi, and the New York Philharmonic with Joshua Gersen. He also appeared in the 2009 film Confessions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher.

“I am honored to be part of the Fort Worth community and Fort Worth Opera. I would like to thank the association for giving me a chance to lead this fine organization in its mission toward excellence,” said Hiltunen. “I am looking forward to sharing thrilling experiences of music and theater with the broader Fort Worth community, and to bringing in new and expanded audiences to share our passion for this ever-changing art form.”

Mike Martinez, chairman of Fort Worth Opera, said, “The Board of Trustees is tremendously excited about the future of Fort Worth Opera. Tuomas is a true leader who will bring his consummate skills to help us achieve financial stability, along with his artistic drive, passion, and the vision to guide Fort Worth Opera through the next decade.”

Maestro Illick became FWOpera’s music director in 2002, having previously served as the artistic director of Florida Grand Opera, Lake George Opera and Shreveport Opera. He has also conducted for numerous opera companies, including the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera (Merola), Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Vienna Chamber Opera, the Covent Garden Ensemble of the Royal Opera House (London), Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Performance Santa Fe Orchestra, Miami Symphony, and the Teatro Lirico d’Europa. His opera for all ages, UnShakeable was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and presented in 2016, and his latest work, Feel the Tango, will premiere in Santa Fe this month, alongside two 15-minutes operas by Jake Heggie and Mark Adamo. “The Fort Worth community has been extremely enthusiastic about

having great opera since the day I arrived, and I look forward to having our team bring more great opera to Fort Worth,” said Illick. “We have plans to reach broader audiences, present exciting new works, and form new collaborations with other arts organizations.”

Board President Nelson Claytor said “The combination of Tuomas’ and Joe’s passion, experience, artistic vision, energy, and commitment to the arts and the Fort Worth community is exactly what we need to achieve the Opera’s vision of bringing new audiences to enjoy and love opera for a lifetime.”

FWOpera has been seeking new general director since the departure of Darren Woods in February. Earlier this month, FWOpera created the Fort Worth Opera National Artistic Council to help guide and support the company in educational programs and artistic endeavors as it starts its 72nd year. The Council’s creation was announced on July 7 and will be led by Plácido Domingo, an international opera star, impresario and conductor.

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