Christopher Mattaliano
Christopher Mattaliano Laura Domela/Portland Opera

Portland Opera is undergoing a major shift in its leadership with yesterday’s announcement that Christopher Mattaliano will be stepping down as general director.

Mattaliano, who was hired as general director in 2003, will instead become an artistic consultant for the opera company, starting with the upcoming 2019-20 season. Effective immediately, Sue Dixon, Portland Opera’s current director of external affairs, will step in as interim general director.

In a statement accompanying the news announcement, Mattaliano says:

“[The] past 16 years have been among the most satisfying and meaningful years of my life. I have formed deep, lifelong friendships within the Portland community, and have been very blessed to work with a great staff and extraordinary artists. Completing the framework for a new strategic plan that will build Portland Opera’s future created the right time for me to step aside.”

Mattaliano came to work with Portland Opera after years directing productions for companies throughout North America and a previous position as artistic director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He became Portland Opera’s fifth general director in July 2003. Since then, Mattaliano has helped to expand the company’s creative purview, embracing less canonical operas—with their 2005 presentation of John Adams’ Nixon in China—and the work of modern composers like Laura Kaminsky and Philip Glass. He worked with other Oregon classical music entities to take opera outside of the usual theatrical setting with live simulcasts and free recital series at the Portland Art Museum. Mattaliano and the city can take pride in his legacy.

While Dixon is set to jump into her new role, there’s still plenty of discussion to be had about who might step in as general director beyond the upcoming season. According to Marketing & Communications Manager Silja Tobin, the Portland Opera’s board of directors are going to work with Dixon to figure out the transition and the potential search for Mattaliano’s replacement.

Whatever the case, Portland Opera looks prepared to weather these changes. The 2018-19 season is about to wrap up its final performances: La Finta Giardiniera and their forthcoming presentation of Philip Glass’s In The Penal Colony. Their calendar for 2019-20 is already full, with a season-opening Madama Butterfly, a collaboration with the Portland Baroque Orchestra on Vivaldi’s Bajazet, and the Portland Opera premiere of composer Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers.