It was a bit of a surprise I must say to hear from Chicago that Bill Mason is retiring from the Lyric Opera after 15 years as General Director and a lifetime in opera, 95% at Lyric itself. He is a little younger than me, just by a few months I think, but I can imagine how he feels! The burden of running Lyric is a thousand times greater than coping with COT, however trying that is from time to time. But I am sure that he will be leaving with his sanity intact.
Bill has been a pillar of the organization since 1962 through the Carol Fox and Ardis Krainik years with only brief intervals away. It was on one of those "sabbaticals" that we first met, in San Francisco in 1979. Ardis then brought him back to Chicago and he has been here ever since with a distinguished 15 year period as General Director following Ardis Krainik.
There is rarely a good time to be searching for a General Director, and this is certainly not one of them. But the exceptionally strong team Bill has built will be a wonderful inheritance for the right man or woman. The institutional robustness of the Lyric is the envy of the opera world. The biggest difficulty will be to identify the right person, not to land the catch!
There will no doubt be much speculation and clever or not so clever guess work in the coming months. What should be clear though is that the best managed opera companies in the world will be hoping to keep their leaders in place rather than losing them to Chicago. But this city is as good as place as there is in the world to work.