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Three-headed team

Houston Grand Opera officially names Patrick Summers its new leader, confirming CultureMap's report

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It's finally official. The Houston Grand Opera has its new leader — a trio of leaders, to be accurate.

As CultureMap first reported back on April 21, HGO music director Patrick Summers will assume management responsibilities as artistic and music director, and collaborate with COO Perryn Leech and chief advancement officer Greg Robertson in an attempt to continue and build HGO's international reputation. Leech will now be called managing director under the three-headed leadership team.

The HGO board made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.

"Mr. Summers, Mr. Leech and Mr. Robertson all possess extensive knowledge and strong entrepreneurial skills — qualities that are essential to managing a complex and innovative enterprise like HGO," chairman of the board Glen Rosenbaum said in a statement.

Summers emerged as the leading man to replace the Chicago-bound Anthony Freud early in the process. In an April 16 email to HGO board members — even before CEO Anthony Freud's departure first became public knowledge in a CultureMap story — Summers thanked them for putting their "confidence" in him.

An integral part of HGO's development for more than a decade, Summers, who also serves as principal guest conductor of the San Francisco Opera, is nationally and internationally recognized. In addition to conducting frequently at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he is a seasoned symphonic conductor who led an eight-city United States tour with the Russian National Orchestra and a variety of European orchestras including that of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw, London's Royal Festival Hall and Paris' Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

Summers has also conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in concerts with soprano Renée Fleming. The questions about his ability to handle the job center on his relative lack of business and management experience.

"My initial attraction to Houston Grand Opera has greatly deepened during my years here," Summers said in a statement. "In this precarious time for the arts in the United States, HGO has managed to constantly re-define what an arts company could look like in a young and growing American city." 

The relatively quick filling of the HGO's top spot (CultureMap broke the news of Freud leaving to helm the Lyric Opera of Chicago on April 20) stands in contrast to how the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which is taking its time in announcing its post-Peter Marzio plans, and the Houston Symphony, which has the luxury of searching for Hans Graf's replacement while he finishes his tenure, are going about filling their own high-profile leadership openings. The triumvirate leadership structure for a non-profit of HGO's budget size, is also uncommon. 

Do you think Summers has enough practical administrative experience to fill exiting CEO Freud's shoes? Is he the right man for the challenging job?

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