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Meet State Opera’s new Artistic Director and Chair

The Government of South Australia and State Opera have today announced that Australian-Chinese conductor Dane Lam has been appointed as the new Artistic Director.

Currently the Music Director of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of China’s Xi’an Symphony Orchestra, Lam said he was thrilled about the appointment and keen to build on the success of recent years.

“I’ve long admired State Opera and its trailblazing work presenting a succession of Australian firsts, bringing more opera to more people across the state, and stewarding this most human of art forms”.

“I’m honoured to build on Stuart Maunder’s vibrant work, and to move the company towards its 50th anniversary in 2026, in partnership with Executive Director Mark Taylor and the whole team,” Lam said.

Lam already has a long and celebrated history that has taken him across the globe, working with some of the best in the business.

“My vision is to champion Australian artists and opera makers in joyous, diverse works.

“The skill of storytelling through the power of the unamplified human voice, opera is an art form that stands apart for its ability to unite music, words, drama, design and much more – an exemplar of people working together to tell stories that speak to universal themes. This is what inspires me,” Lam said.

Some of Lam’s career highlights include: his critically-acclaimed London debut with Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Opera Holland Park; leading the orchestral and operatic revival in Australia in the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns (first concerts with ASO, QSO, MSO, Opera Queensland); building the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra over almost a decade – the first non-Chinese national Chief Conductor of a Chinese orchestra – and attracting world-renowned guest artists to introduce opera to the city; championing living composers (Michael-Thomas Foumai, Zhao Jiping, Salina Fisher, Huang Ruo) and neglected composers of the past (Dai-Keong Lee, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Francesco Cilea);performing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra at the Terracotta Warriors Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and, most recently, leading the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra with a host of Hawai’i artists in Maui Ola: A Benefit Concert for Maui in the wake of the Maui wildfires which raised more than one million dollars through a national televised event.

“I have a long and affectionate association with South Australia, having taken conductor masterclasses in Adelaide, and I have subsequently enjoyed conducting the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. I can’t wait to get even better acquainted with the local audience to tap into their hopes and dreams for our State Opera company.” Lam said.

Lam’s appointment also coincides with the announcement of a new Chair, Ashley Miller who began last Thursday 7 September. As a Partner of KPMG and Professor at Adelaide University, Miller said he plans to merge his passion for opera and extensive experience in governance, finance and accounting to lead State Opera into the future.

“I feel incredibly humbled to be joining this wonderful organisation at the cusp of change. I hold Lam in such high regard and look forward to supporting his vision and in collaboration with the Board, Mark Taylor and State Opera team, steering the company towards continued success,” Miller said.

Minister for Arts, Andrea Michaels said she was looking forward to seeing the State Opera grow into the future.

“Our State is renowned across the country and the world for delivering both celebrated European opera and Australian works. We have the workforce and facilities to host productions of grand scale, securing work for local performers and attracting some of the best artists, both locally and abroad to South Australia.

“I look forward to seeing opera continue to thrive within the performing arts space under this new leadership and creative vision, and commend the outgoing team for their passion, tremendous skill and hard work in handing over the company in such good shape.” she said.

Executive Director, Mark Taylor said he was excited to welcome Lam and Miller to the Opera family saying it heralded the start of the new chapter at the Company.

“We have had a change of guard at State Opera over the last year and these appointments finalise our new team that will shape the next chapter of our history. I’m excited to not only work with these great people, but to be a part of shaping this company’s future,” Taylor said.

Taylor went on to thank former and outgoing Chair, Master Elizabeth Olsson and outgoing Artistic Director, Stuart Maunder for their unwavering steadfast commitment and passion in their roles.

“Stuart has been a game-changer within the company and has had so many highlights over his time with State Opera like The Lost Operas of Oz, Carmen in the Square, Boheme on the Beach, Voss, Sweeney Todd and the G&S Fest – he will be dearly missed and on behalf of the company we wish him the best in his new role as Artistic Director of Victorian Opera,” he said.

Verdi’s Macbeth, currently at Her Majesty’s Theatre until Saturday 16 September, was Maunder’s last season with State Opera as Artistic Director. The last show in 2023 will be The Marriage of Figaro, hitting the stage from 16-25 November, with an exciting announcement coming soon regarding the 2024 season, including a co-production involving another major South Australian arts organisation.

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