The fat lady sings for HGO

Houston Grand Opera CEO Anthony Freud is headed to Lyric Opera of Chicago

Houston Grand Opera CEO Anthony Freud is headed to Lyric Opera of Chicago

News_Anthony Freud_Lynn Wyatt_Colin Ure
Houston Grand Opera CEO Anthony Freud, left, with Lynn Wyatt and Colin Ure at last fall's Opening Night Gala. Photo by Gary Fountain

UPDATE: The Lyric Opera of Chicago board plans to confirm Anthony Freud’s appointment as general manager Thursday afternoon. Freud told the Chicago Tribune late Wednesday night he is "honored and thrilled" to take the job which begins Oct. 1.

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CultureMap has learned that Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Anthony Freud, whose contract was extended to 2015 only last October, is leaving Houston early to take up the reins at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Several sources have confirmed that Freud will replace Lyric Opera general director William Mason, who is retiring after more than four decades at the end of the 2011/12 season. The Chicago company is generally ranked third in the country behind New York City's Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera, with Houston Grand Opera and Los Angeles Opera also in the mix for positions in the top five.

Details of his departure are being finalized, said an HGO board member. Granting that Freud's exit is a given, the board member added that there is a "good probability of a succession announcement next week." And that should have HGO fans in a high state of curious anxiety.

An announcement of Freud's departure could come as soon as Thursday, sources say.

Houston Grand Opera senior publicist Claire Vince said she had no "clarification or confirmation" of Freud's departure. "We're waiting for Chicago to give us the final word on everything," she said.

Officials at Lyric Opera of Chicago did not immediately return a call for comment.

Freud, credited with establishing the company's first comprehensive strategic and business plan, was appointed HGO's third general director and first CEO in July 2005. He joined the company full-time in March of 2006 after leaving his position as general director of the Welsh National Opera in the United Kingdom.

In an HGO press release issued at the time of Freud's contract extension, HGO board chairman Glen Rosenbaum was quoted, "On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Houston Grand Opera Association, I am very pleased to announce the extension of Anthony Freud's contract. It is indicative of the regard in which we hold Anthony, and the trust that the board, trustees and staff all have in his leadership and vision. Anthony is the best in the business, and we are thrilled that he will continue to lead the company."

In that same press release, Freud was quoted as saying, “I want to continue taking the company, the art form and especially the audience on a journey of discovery. We need always to be moving ahead, exploring, breaking new ground, innovating."