Press Room

The Dallas Opera is Proud to Announce a New General Director

DALLAS, APRIL 7, 2010 – The Dallas Opera is proud to announce the appointment of 47-year-old Keith Cerny (pronounced SUR-nee), the CEO of Sheet Music Plus, to be the next general director of the Dallas Opera.  Effective Monday, May 24, 2010, Mr. Cerny will become the seventh general director in the 53-year-history of the company.
The appointment was announced earlier today to the Dallas Opera Board of Directors and members of the company, after having been approved by Dallas Opera President Dr. Kern Wildenthal and a blue-ribbon search committee chaired by former board member Harvey Mitchell.  A formal announcement is scheduled for this afternoon at 3:30 PM in the main lobby of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.  Mr. Cerny will have comments and will also open the floor to questions from patrons and members of the local media, who are encouraged to attend.
Mr. Cerny will assume the position from Interim General Director John T. Cody, Jr., who has served for the past year.
“The search committee was privileged to work with an exceptional group of candidates vying for this position,” says Mr. Mitchell.  “The men and women considered for this job, as a group, may have comprised the strongest field of contenders this company has ever attracted.”  Added Mitchell, “It made for a difficult—yet rewarding—decision.”

“Keith has an outstanding track record of success in a number of areas,” explains Dr. Wildenthal.  “His background demonstrates that he fully understands, appreciates, and embraces both the business and artistic demands of a top-notch American opera company.“His tremendous accomplishments as Executive Director (COO) and CFO of the San Francisco Opera were exceptional, and proved his ability to lead a major opera company.  His experience also has included highly successful periods in executive positions with McKinsey & Company and Accenture, and as the CEO of the world’s largest internet-based sheet music company, while simultaneously serving as a pro bono consultant to many of America’s leading opera companies.

“It was clear from his student days that Keith’s career would pivot around the arts although he was earning equally impressive credentials in the business world.  At UC-Berkeley, he earned degrees with highest honors in both music and physics.  Following graduation, he spent four years in London where he coached and conducted operas and studied piano.  Later, Keith applied those same exceptional skills in order to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard.    “The rare combination of artistic and administrative talent that Keith possesses makes him one of the opera world’s most respected strategic thinkers and leaders, and confirms his status as an ideal new general director for the Dallas Opera.”

Mr. Cerny currently serves as CEO of Sheet Music Plus; managing the day-to-day operations of an award-winning, 25 million dollar revenue company with sales to over 170 countries worldwide.  Previously, he served as an Executive Director at Russell Reynolds Associates, recruiting CEOs and senior executives for universities, conservatories, museums and foundations.

From 2004 through 2007, Mr. Cerny served as Executive Director (COO) and CFO of the San Francisco Opera; managing all marketing, fund-raising, box-office, endowment, communications, finance and staff functions for one of the nation’s leading opera companies (a $58 million annual budget, $120 million endowment).  As one of SFO’s two principal officers reporting to the San Francisco Opera Association, Mr. Cerny managed the organization to three consecutive years of balanced budgets.  He launched new marketing and fund-raising initiatives resulting in a significant increase in subscription revenue and, at the same time, worked closely with SFO’s largest foundation donors.  Mr. Cerny is currently serving on the Strategy Committee of Opera America (the national service organization for opera).    

“I am absolutely delighted to be joining the Dallas Opera as its General Director at this momentous time in its history,” says General Director Designate Keith Cerny.  “I have been extremely impressed with the company’s wonderful new opera house and its ambitious plans for the future.  I am proud to lead a company with such an outstanding artistic legacy, and have been gratified to see the strong support the organization enjoys from its board, its patrons, and the broader community.”

Mr. Cerny earned B.A. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley in Music and Physics with highest honors, an M.B.A. with distinction from Harvard Business School, and a Ph.D. in Economic Development Studies/Econometrics from The Open University in the U.K.  He also completed the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders-Arts offered by National Arts Strategies and the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  Mr. Cerny’s business experience includes six years with McKinsey & Company (rising to the position of Senior Engagement Manager) focused around telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods in the United States, Europe and Latin America, and seven years with the San Francisco office of Accenture (promoted from Senior Manager to Partner after two and a half years with the company), where he specialized in strategy and business architecture consulting for Communications and High Technology companies.  

Mr. Cerny has been recognized and honored for his community service and considerable business acumen with the Pacific Telesis Award (1993) for an article in California Management Review that “made the most important contribution to improving the practice of management,” and as Volunteer of the Year by the Harvard Business School Community Partners (2000) for leading the development of the Silicon Valley Strategy for San Francisco Opera.

On the artistic side, the Dallas Opera’s new general director studied opera accompanying on the English National Opera Repetiteur’s Training Course (1985-1986) and pursued part-time post-graduate studies in conducting, accompanying and voice at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1984-1987).  At the University of California at Berkeley, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Mr. Cerny was Chairman of the Dean’s Consulting Group in Letters and Science, four-time winner of the Alumni Association Award and recipient of the Eisner Prize in music (1982) for “creative achievement of the highest order.”  

Additional leadership, academic and musical awards included the President’s Fellowship to assist “unusually talented undergraduates in pursuing original or creative work,” a Fulbright Scholarship to study physics in the United Kingdom, and the Alfred Hertz Memorial Fellowship—a one-year scholarship award from UC-Berkeley to study piano in London.    Mr. Cerny is a regular panel participant and speaker at Opera America conferences and special events, including the National Performing Arts Convention.

His past pro bono consulting activities include work for English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera America, Washington National Opera, Atlanta Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Los Angeles Opera, and – most recently – Houston Grand Opera where he led a multifaceted pro bono initiative on key marketing areas.  His pro bono work with San Francisco Opera, prior to his appointment as the company’s Executive Director (COO) and CFO, was written up as a case study by Harvard Business School, and has been taught at a number of leading business schools.

Mr. Cerny and his wife Jennifer have four children, all of whom have been encouraged to study musical instruments (two on violin, three on piano, one on cello, one on clarinet, one on trombone!).  In his rare free time, the new general director enjoys running, hiking, and traveling with his family.


A tradition of artistic excellence and community engagement has made the Dallas Opera a key contributor to the international cultural reputation of Dallas.  For more than half a century, the company (as one of the area’s largest arts employers) has also had a significant economic impact on the state of the performing arts in North Texas.   The Dallas Opera has had the honor of presenting many international stars in their American opera debuts, including Dame Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé, Jon Vickers, and Plácido Domingo, as well as designer/director Franco Zeffirelli.  During its 53-year history, the Dallas Opera has presented the American premieres of five operas, in addition to two world premieres.

The curtain rises on a third Dallas Opera world premiere later this month: Herman Melville’s MOBY-DICK by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, opening April 30, 2010.
The Dallas Opera (in collaboration with The Meadows School of the Arts Division of Music and the Texas Book Festival) conducted a symposium on the final weekend in March, “From Page to Stage: The Operatic Journey of MOBY-DICK,” a three-part program which included musical excerpts and panel discussions devoted to exploring the process of re-imagining the original source material for the opera stage.   Besides the eminent composer and librettist, distinguished contributors to the event included tenor Stephen Costello, baritone Morgan Smith, soprano Talise Trevigne, best-selling author Nathaniel Philbrick (“In the Heart of the Sea,” “Mayflower”), Melville scholar T. Walter Herbert, KERA arts producer-reporter Jerome Weeks, the Van Cliburn Foundation’s Shields-Collins Bray and Melville’s great, great-grandson, Duncan Osborne.

The Dallas Opera also is collaborating with Southern Methodist University to develop the Emerging Artists Program to advance the education and performance opportunities for tomorrow’s talented young opera singers, and has produced a new one act opera, Red Carnations, designed to introduce students to the art form while sparking discussion of “stranger danger” and internet predators.

The Dallas Opera’s music education programs have garnered numerous awards.  Thousands of fourth through eighth-graders attend special performances of fully staged operas each season, and hundreds of teachers receive training in the use of the Opera’s successful integrated curriculum materials.

The Dallas Opera entered an exciting new era in October of 2009 when the new Tim Albury production of Verdi’s OTELLO, starring tenor Clifton Forbis in the title role, inaugurated the first season in Dallas’ new performance hall, the architecturally and acoustically acclaimed Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.


The world premiere production of MOBY-DICK is made possible with support from:

Hoblitzelle Foundation
Carol Franc Buck Foundation
American Express
Robert and Catherine Brackbill
Schollmaier Foundation
James R. Seitz, Jr.
Sally Von Behren
The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund


For high-resolution, digital photographs suitable for print
To arrange an interview
Or for additional information
Please contact  Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR
214.443.1014 or
[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Ticket Information for the 2009-2010 Dallas Opera Season

All performances are in the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.   Subscriptions start at just $75 while prices for single tickets begin at $15, if purchased in advance.  For more information, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online at
<> .

The Dallas Opera celebrates its Fifty-Third International Season with 30 performances of five productions in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. Evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees will begin at 2:00 p.m.   English translations will be projected above the stage at every performance.  Assistance is available for the hearing impaired.

OTELLO by Giuseppe Verdi
October 23, 25(m), 28 & 31, November 5 & 8(m), 2009
A new Dallas Opera production to inaugurate the Winspear Opera House!
Grand Opening Ceremonies for the season begin at 7:00 PM on OPENING NIGHT!
An opera in four acts first performed at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, February 5, 1887.
Text by Arrigo Boito after William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Otello, or The Moor of Venice.
Time: the 15th century
Place: The island of Cyprus
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage Director: Tim Albery*
Production Design: Anthony Baker*
Lighting Design: Thomas C. Hase
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Clifton Forbis (Otello), Allan Glassman (Otello, Oct. 25th) Alexandra Deshorties* (Desdemona), Lado Ataneli* (Iago), Sean Panikkar* (Cassio), Elizabeth Turnbull (Emilia), Mark McCrory (Montano), and Raymond Aceto (Lodovico)

February 12, 14(m), 18, 20, 26 & 28(m), 2010
One of the world’s greatest composers on the subject of love!
An opera in two acts first performed in Vienna’s Burgtheater, January 26, 1790.
Text by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Time: 18th century
Place: Naples, Italy
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage Director: John Cox
Production Design: Robert Perdziola*
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Elza van den Heever* (Fiordiligi), Jennifer Holloway (Dorabella), Michael Todd Simpson (Guglielmo), Brian Anderson (Ferrando), Sir Thomas Allen* (Don Alfonso) and Nuccia Focile (Despina).

DON PASQUALE by Gaetano Donizetti
February 19, 21(m), 24, 27, March 5 & 7(m), 2010
Production from Los Angeles Opera
A comic opera in three acts first performed in Paris’ Théâtre Italien, January 3, 1843.
Text by Giovanni Ruffini and the composer after Angelo Anelli’s libretto for Stefano Pavesi’s Ser Marcantonio.
Time: mid-19th century
Place: Rome, Italy
Conductor: Stefano Ranzani*
Stage Director: Candace Evans
Production Design: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Lighting Design: Duane Schuler
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Donato Di Stefano (Don Pasquale), Adriana Kucerova** (Norina), Nathan Gunn (Dr. Malatesta) and Norman Shankle* (Ernesto).

MOBY-DICK by Jake Heggie (World Premiere!)
April 30, May 2(m), 5, 8, 13 & 16(m), 2010
A new Dallas Opera co-commission, co-production with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and The State Opera of South Australia
World Premiere Performances
An opera in two acts
Text by Gene Sheer after Herman Melville’s novel, Moby-Dick
Time: the 19th century
Place: The South Seas
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Stage Director: Leonard Foglia*
Scenic Design: Robert Brill*
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood*
Lighting Design: Donald Holder*
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Ben Heppner* (Captain Ahab), Morgan Smith* (Starbuck) Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Jonathan Lemalu* (Queequeg), Talise Trevigne* (Pip), Robert Orth* (Stubb), Matthew O’Neill (Flask) and Jonathan Beyer* (Captain Gardiner).

MADAME BUTTERFLY by Giacomo Puccini
May 7, 9(m), 12, 15, 20 & 23(m), 2010
A Francesca Zambello Production!
An opera in two acts first performed at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, February 17, 1904.
Text by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly, based on a short story by John Luther Long.
Time: Beginning of the 20th century
Place: Nagasaki, Japan
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage Director: Garnett Bruce
Production: Francesca Zambello
Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan
Costume Design: Anita Yavich
Lighting Design: Alan Burrett
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Adina Nitescu (Cio-Cio San), Brandon Jovanovich (B.F. Pinkerton), James Westman (Sharpless), Maria Zifchak* (Suzuki), David Cangelosi (Goro), Young-Bok Kim* (The Bonze) and Yungbae Yang* (Prince Yamadori).

* Dallas Opera Debut
** American Debut

The Dallas Opera is supported, in part, by funds from:  City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs; TACA; the Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  The Dallas Opera 2009-2010 Season Presented by Comerica Bank.  American Airlines is the official airline of The Dallas Opera.  Lexus is the official vehicle of The Dallas Opera.  Cartier is the official jeweler of The Dallas Opera.  Rosewood Crescent Hotel is the official hotel of The Dallas Opera.  Pianos provided by Steinway Hall, Dallas/Ft. Worth/Plano.  Advertising support from The Dallas Morning News.  A special thanks to Mrs. William W. Winspear and the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for their continuing support.

Return to Press Room