Cumbria-based company Mahogany Opera has announced that Mary Miller, a trustee of the board, is the new chair. She replaces Penny Jonas, who stood down in October 2023 after six years in the role.
Miller joined the board in December 2022. A former concert violinist. music journalist, broadcaster and festival programmer, she brings with her many years’ experience of international arts leadership in the UK, US and Norway, as well as a passion for community engagement in opera.
Highlights of Miller’s career include leading new work at English National Opera, directing the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in the United States, and directing Stavanger2008, European Capital of Culture, Norway’s biggest-ever cultural programme. She also worked as general and artistic director of Bergen National Opera and is a member of the European Cultural Parliament.
Based in Edinburgh, she is ideally placed to lead Mahogany Opera as the company turns its focus on its work in Scotland.
“To take over the chair from Penny Jonas is such a privilege – what an extraordinary role she has played in Mahogany’s journey,” Miller commented.
“So, with some trepidation but considerable excitement, I am determined to continue our forward momentum, to develop the company’s Scottish focus and to support overall an excellent leadership team in our wide range of work, from international ambitions to life-enhancing collaborations in small communities.
“Mahogany’s commitment to work across generations and over conventional boundaries is unique. I’m proud to become their greatest champion.”
Penny Jonas started working with Mahogany in 2010, becoming a trustee in 2013. She took up the role of chair in 2017.
During her tenure as chair, she guided the company through the pandemic, oversaw an expansion and diversification of the board and led on the recruitment of the company’s current executive director, Bridget Rennie.
Mahogany Opera said in a statement: “Penny’s generosity and spirit has inspired the company and she leaves us resilient and in buoyant mood for the future. While we wish her well in her future endeavours, Penny will always remain a dear and valued member of the Mahogany family.”
Jonas added: “Working with Mahogany over the 10-year period has been particularly rewarding as well as a very happy experience. On taking the chair, I was indebted to my two fellow trustees at that time for their loyalty, wisdom and experience, as well as the Mahogany team who worked so assiduously to keep the company fit and flying through some turbulent times.
“Now, headed up by Bridget and Freddie, supported by a new, highly experienced chair with an enlarged and very able board of new trustees, I wave farewell but not goodbye, with the best of wishes as well as confidence for the company’s future strength and success.”
October also saw Mahogany Opera celebrate its 20-year anniversary. To mark this milestone, the company commissioned a video featuring a selection of Mahogany artists, along with footage from the company’s projects and productions.
Mahogany Opera’s artistic director Frederic Wake-Walker commented: “The last 20 years of Mahogany Opera have been the most incredible journey and that’s been down to the people who’ve been involved. This film is a thank you to all of them for being part of it. And it is also an invitation to everyone watching this film to come and join us and be part of the next stage of the journey.”
Mary Miller (right) has been announced as Mahogany Opera’s new chair, replacing Penny Jonas (left).