Let me stipulate right up front that I know next to nothing about opera. I don’t know an aria from a contata.
However, I do know about opera star power and how it translate to something so good for whatever an opera star can bring to whatever he or she touches.
With that, I want to say that the Amarillo (Texas) Opera has just lifted its star power way, way up by hiring Mary Jane Johnson as its new executive director.
I cannot claim to know Johnson well, although we are acquainted. I do know a good bit of her, particularly that she has performed internationally for more than three decades. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had the good fortune to be discovered by a pretty good tenor, the late Luciano Pavarotti, who heard her sing in 1981.
As Panhandle PBS reported: “The Board of Trustees of Amarillo Opera has great confidence in Ms. Johnson(‘s) vision and leadership of Amarillo Opera and looks forward to continuing the outstanding work of one of Amarillo’s great cultural assets,” according to the release.
Johnson hails from Pampa. I know that’s a long way from where she’s been and, indeed, where she is going.
As for the fellow she replaces, David O’Dell, he left when the opera board didn’t renew his contract. I cannot comment on the circumstances surrounding O’Dell’s departure. I will say that he has become a good friend over the years. I, too, wish him well as he pursues other opportunities, which I am certain will come his way.
There appear to be some financial concerns regarding the opera, according to Panhandle PBS: Robert Hansen, president-elect of the opera’s board of directors, said the company is on “shaky ground” financially but not in immediate danger of folding.
“We need to take action to preserve the opera,” he said. “We need to be more tightly committed to the original mission of Amarillo Opera, one key point of which is to nurture local talent and to serve the community.”
Again, here is where Mary Jane Johnson’s star power can potentially bring a lot of healing to Amarillo’s Opera.
Clear your throat, Mrs. Johnson, so that you will be heard.