Priti Gandhi has been hired as the new artistic director of Portland Opera, the company announced in a press release Wednesday morning. Gandhi, who has sung internationally and who comes to Portland from Minnesota Opera, where she has been chief artistic officer, will be one of the few women in the opera world in a top artistic role. The company has been searching for a new artistic leader since parting ways with former general director Christopher Mattaliano, who had also filled the artistic function, in 2019.
We’ll have more on this story as we learn more.
The text of this morning’s press release:
(Portland, OR – July 21, 2021) Portland Opera is delighted to announce that Priti Gandhi has joined the company as artistic director.
“I am beyond thrilled to welcome Priti to Portland and Portland Opera!” says Sue Dixon, general director. “She is an inspiring artistic leader, and I am so excited to work with her as a collaborative partner to move the company forward—as we continue to realize Portland Opera’s mission in the community.”
Ms. Gandhi will work with Sue Dixon, and artistic advisors Karen Slack and Damien Geter, to guide the company as an artistic and strategic leader—in a role that will include artistic and repertoire planning, casting, developing the Portland Opera Resident Artist program, and directing the artistic department, which includes oversight of the company’s community engagement and educational programs.
“I am looking forward to the journey with Portland Opera!“ says Priti Gandhi, artistic director. “It is clear to me that the company is committed to charting a course for meaningful change in our field, while honoring the very best of our art form. Portland Opera has a history of great artistic vision—presenting grand, traditional works—as well as those that push the boundaries of tradition. My first priority will be to listen: to the staff and board, to our artists and community, to our patrons and stakeholders—in order to gain insight and further develop our work from a foundation of inclusion, respect, and joy.”
The search for the company’s permanent artistic director included a diverse applicant pool of local, national, and international candidates. The process and the role of artistic director was envisioned beginning in 2019, aligned with the company’s strategic artistic goals. The inclusive search process included candidate feedback from a formal committee, as well as Portland Opera staff members, board members, orchestra and chorus members, union representatives, educational and community leaders, audience members, and peers.
“My board colleagues and I share our warm welcome to Priti,” says William Sweat, president of Portland Opera’s board of directors. “We see so much wonderful potential in how her artistic vision aligns with our company values and vision, and look forward to her close collaboration with Sue Dixon—and the full company—as we continue to author Portland Opera’s next chapter together.”
Ms. Gandhi joins Portland Opera from Minnesota Opera, where she was named chief artistic officer in 2018. ” Priti has been an extraordinary team leader for Minnesota Opera for the last three years,” says Ryan Taylor, president and general director of Minnesota Opera. “At a time of critical change for our company, she has been guided by a steady focus to build a healthy creative environment for all artists and team members. While it’s always difficult to lose a valued leader, I am excited to watch her career continue to grow and flourish, and for Portland Opera to start a new chapter with the benefit of her expertise and spirit.”
For Minnesota Opera, Ms. Gandhi led the artistic department and created new processes for company conversations regarding diversity in traditional narratives and casting – most notably, exploring the growing discussion of the relevance of the operatic canon in the evolving lens of today. Prior to her work with Minnesota Opera, Ms. Gandhi served as artistic administrator of San Diego Opera, where she oversaw all artistic contracting and management.
She has been a frequent contributor to forum discussions, podcasts, and published articles regarding the ongoing dialogue of new perspectives in industry-wide equity, diversity, and inclusion work, while continuing to center the topic of the transformative power of the voice in the art form. She is also passionate about connecting the next generation of singers to career paths and resources, as well as creating more compassionate and supportive spaces in the industry for artists – serving as a panelist for numerous organizations including Opera America, National Endowment for the Arts, The Women’s Opera Network (OA).
In her international opera performance career, Ms. Gandhi has sung with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, Theatre du Chatelet, the Royal Opera House, Prague Estates Theatre, New York City Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Opera, among others.
Ms. Gandhi graduated with a bachelor of arts in communications and a minor in theatre from the University of California, San Diego, and has served as a published weekly columnist with The San Diego Union-Tribune, about life backstage and on the road. An alumna of young artist programs at Cleveland Opera and San Diego Opera, Ms. Gandhi is also an amateur painter and flamenco dancer.
Portland Opera will soon announce a series of virtual and in-person events, scheduled throughout the 21/22 season, to invite the community and patrons to connect with general director Sue Dixon and artistic director Priti Gandhi, and join a dialogue about the company’s plans for the future, artistic goals, and continued strategic development. More information about the upcoming season, as well as the company’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan, can be found at portlandopera.org.