Greg Eldridge Joins Opera Project Columbus as Executive Director

By Leslie McBride, communications director for Opera Project Columbus

Greg Eldridge recently joined Opera Project Columbus as Executive Director bringing with him global views and experience as well as a refreshed vision for the organization.

Leslie: What is it about Opera Project Columbus that drew you in?
Greg: One of the signs of a great city is that it can support more than one opera company — a major company with the resources to produce lavish staged works, and a smaller company with a focus on telling a multiplicity of stories from within its communities. When given the opportunity to join a company like this in an artistic city like Columbus, I wanted to be involved as the company planned out its next decade of growth after a successful first 10 years.

Leslie: What experience and background do you bring with you?
Greg: I’m an Australian stage director who has worked on over 80 shows across nine countries, and so I know the many different moving parts — each vital in their own way — that have to come together to bring about a show.

My own training was in Italy and the UK, where I was a young artist at The Royal Opera House in London, where I was subsequently made an associate. Alongside this, I’ve worked in artistic policy development in several areas. I was on the board of Stage Directors UK, which is the union for directors of live theatre in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and have also been an active member of several committees championing equality of access in my role as professor of directing in the Opera department of CCM in Cincinnati.

Leslie: How do you see Opera Project Columbus growing?
Greg: I’m hugely excited to be working with a number of incredibly passionate colleagues at OPC. Together, we have a vision for the company that will expand its offerings in addition to main stage productions, as well as continuing to develop and produce works by Black, African American and immigrant storytellers. One of my real passions is to encourage people to see opera as a way for us to tell our own stories and not just as a vehicle for watching other peoples’. We’ll definitely be doing more work in this area as well!

Leslie: Who are some of your inspirations?
Greg: I’ve been lucky in my career to have worked with some of the world’s best artists. Whether they be directors (Sir David McVicar, Sir Richard Eyre, Barrie Kosky), conductors (Sir Antonio Pappano, Sir Mark Elder, Robin Ticciati) or singers (Jonas Kauffman, Sonya Yoncheva, Denyce Graves), I’ve been blessed to have been in rehearsal rooms throughout the world where people are making art of the highest quality and integrity. Alongside these superstars, however, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from those who work tirelessly to bring our artform into the small community theaters, workshop spaces and classrooms of our communities. For me, opera at its largest scale is one of the most breathtaking achievements in theater. At its local scale, it is one of the most important, as it allows people to experience great swings of emotion and to engage with the perplexing questions of our own identities and lives. No wonder opera as an artform has enjoyed popularity for the last 500 years!

Leslie: Do you have a favorite story/moment from your years as a director?
Greg: There are many stories that permeate the international opera scene, and the most entertaining of them probably can’t be done justice in print. I do, however, remember the moments of high drama the most. The soprano who turned up to the first staging rehearsal for a scene she hadn’t realized was in the score and looked at us blankly as the chorus waited for her to sing her first notes… the director who enjoyed the champagne at a show with two intervals to the extent that he almost fell into the orchestra while taking his curtain call… the sudden jolt of surprise when we lost power to an entire row of lights at the first performance and the lighting team had to spend each scene hurriedly re-programming lighting queues just in time for the next scene.

Among these, however, are also some of the memories that have driven me to where I am today: the looks on the faces of school children who hear an opera singer for the first time, the excitement of a chorus of young people who can hear their very first audience outside as the orchestra tunes, the joy of working with a community choir in London and then staging them into a production of mine on the main stage at The Royal Opera House. All of these moments remain etched on my mind and encourage to keep working towards a world where access to opera is both easy and natural.

Leslie: What are a couple of your favorite spots around Columbus?
Greg: I am very much looking forward to exploring the city more. As an Australian, I’ve always been interested in the craft beer scene, and have loved exploring the local bars and restaurants that stock regional and small-batch offerings. Also, having grown up in Melbourne which — thanks to its rich history of immigration from all corners of the globe — has an incredible coffee scene, I’ve become very partial to spending my first few weeks in any city chasing down really good coffee. Brunch in Australia is usually focused around great food and great coffee, and as we come into summer I’m looking forward to spending many more mornings at a sunny outdoor table with my scores and a strong cup!

Leslie: What are you most excited about being involved in the Columbus arts scene?
Greg: One of the best things about being in Ohio is the incredible depth of talent that exists around us. Particularly in Columbus, there are so many young singers, instrumentalists and creatives who together represent the new wave of operatic art.

Alongside these new artists, however, are also a huge number of mid-career artists who have chosen to return to our beautiful state either to raise families or to teach at our renowned institutions, or to settle in our fabulous cities, and we are also keen to engage with them.

Our company is truly committed to having a diversity of voices in our planning and productions, and this means a diversity of ages, abilities and all lived experiences. In short, if you are in Ohio and have a love of our art form, we want to meet with you and find ways to work with you to further our mutual passion for opera.

Learn more about Eldridge at greg-eldridge.com and Opera Project Columbus at operaprojectcolumbus.com.

This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.



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