Opera North’s general director Richard Mantle has announced that he is to retire from the Leeds-based company next year, having spent 30 years leading the company. He leaves with Opera North’s “enormous gratitude and good wishes,” the company said in a statement.
Richard joined Opera North as general director in 1994. His previous roles include managing director at Edmonton Opera in Canada and deputy managing director at English National Opera; he also worked at Scottish Opera.
He was awarded an OBE in June 2013 for services to music, is a deputy lieutenant of West Yorkshire and holds honorary doctorates from both the University of Leeds and the University of York.
“A little over two years ago before Covid intervened, I had been considering the possibility of retiring,” Mantle commented, “although I was keen to see the completion of our ambitious Music Works project and to welcome Garry Walker as our new music director.”
“Opera North has now come through the considerable challenges of the pandemic intact and in good shape. We have completed a full season of opera and music, culminating in the incredible experience of Parsifal, we have finally completed Music Works, and we are delighted that Garry Walker has relocated to the UK and joined us here in Leeds as music director.
“Having discussed this at length with our chair, Paul Lee, we have agreed that now is the time to instigate a process to identify and appoint my successor. I anticipate that I will step down at the end of 2023; the exact date will be flexible depending on the appointment of a new general director.”
Based in Leeds, Opera North’s award-winning productions tour the north of England and beyond. Mantle’s tenure at Opera North has seen the company transform into a complex, modern arts organisation ready to meet 21st century challenges.
It delivers large-scale touring opera and a symphonic concerts programme, as well an eclectic music, talks and film programme in the 300-seat Howard Assembly Room in Leeds. A wide-ranging education and community partnerships programme brings music and arts into many thousands of people’s lives each year. Opera North is also a Theatre of Sanctuary and a leader in sustainability in the arts.
“I have led Opera North for almost 30 years,” Mantle continued, “and I feel incredibly fortunate to have held one of the best opera jobs in the UK and further afield, and to have worked with so many talented, valued and inspiring colleagues. It has been a hugely fulfilling experience.
“Now is a good time for a younger person to lead the team at Opera North, who will bring fresh ideas and articulate a new strategy for the company over the decade ahead.”
Mantle led two significant capital developments of Opera North’s estate. The Transformation programme created purpose-built rehearsal facilities and led to the opening of the Howard Assembly Room in 2009.
The recent Music Works project created additional rehearsal space for the orchestra and chorus, dedicated education studios, and improved front of house facilities for the Howard Assembly Room, including Kino, a new restaurant and bar on New Briggate which opened in 2022.
Paul Lee, chair of the Board of Trustees commented: “Richard Mantle will be stepping down after an unparalleled 29 years in post. He leaves an organisation that is radically different to the one he joined in 1994 – one which is immeasurably stronger and more diverse in its activities and the people it serves.
“All of us who have worked with Richard over the years will feel a profound sense of gratitude for his immense service to the company’s staff and the countless guest artists whose careers Opera North has done so much to nurture and develop, and above all, audiences and communities throughout the north and beyond.”
Opera North said that the process to recruit a new general director will now begin in earnest. The company’s 2022-23 season opens later this month.
Richard Mantle concluded: “We have emerged from one of the most testing periods in the company’s life with a great deal of hope and ambition for the future, although it will not be without its challenges given current economic vicissitudes.
“I am extremely confident and optimistic that a new general director, ably supported by an exceptional senior management team and encouraged by a great Board of Trustees, will take the company forward. Opera North is an unbeatable crucible of talent and creativity. Long may it continue.”
After leading Opera North for 30 years, Richard Mantle has announced that he will retire as the company’s general manager next year.