Timothy O’Leary  photo by Ken Howard

Longtime Opera Theatre of Saint Louis leader Timothy O’Leary is leaving St. Louis for the Washington National Opera.

Effective July 1, 2018, O’Leary is assuming the role of general director at WNO, a position he has served in St. Louis since 2008. Today’s announcement comes from WNO board of trustees president Robert Downing, WNO board chair Ellen Berelson and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts president Deborah Rutter.

O’Leary also currently serves as board chairman of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera.

During O’Leary’s tenure at OTSL, the company has continued to earn acclaim for innovative programming, and has achieved sustained growth in new audiences, earning national recognition for such efforts as its Engagement and Inclusion Task Force and a Young Friends program, which has quadrupled in subscribership from Gen X and Millennial audiences in the past seven years.

OTSL has also achieved new fundraising records under O’Leary’s leadership, doubling the endowment from $16.5 million in 2008 to more than $33 million in 2017. Annual contributions have grown by more than 46 percent during the same period, to exceed $6 million per year.

In his new post, O’Leary will work closely with WNO’s board of directors and artistic director Francesca Zambello to provide strategic and operational oversight of the entire company. In collaboration with Zambello, he will ensure that WNO achieves the highest artistic standards in its performances and other work throughout the community. As a member of the Kennedy Center’s senior leadership team, he will also explore ways in which WNO can build on its partnership with the Center to serve audiences, the Washington, D.C. community and the international arts community.

“Timothy’s impressive stewardship of OTSL has been a model of visionary and inspired management of a modern America opera company,” said Downing. “His demonstrated success in connecting with local communities and audiences while simultaneously setting the agenda on a national stage, also apparent with his chairmanship of Opera America, are a perfect fit with the future strategic direction of the WNO and the Kennedy Center.”

“It is a privilege to join the Washington National Opera and this tremendous team,” said O’Leary. “I am excited, honored, and deeply grateful to the WNO board, to the Kennedy Center and Deborah Rutter, and to the whole WNO community. I am also absolutely thrilled to collaborate with Francesca Zambello. Francesca is one of the artists I admire most in this world—because of her inspiring, humane, and brilliant work. Thanks to the WNO’s amazing staff, Francesca’s artistic vision, the company’s devoted board, its generous family of supporters, and the invaluable partnership of the Kennedy Center, we have the opportunity to build on the storied WNO past to help shape the future of opera in the 21st century.”

A statement from Opera Theatre reads: “The staff and board are grateful to Mr. O’Leary for his 10 years of dedicated service to Opera Theatre and wish him continued success in his future role in our nation’s capital.”

O’Leary, along with his wife and three children, will relocate to the D.C. area before the start of the 2018-2019 season.

There is no word yet on how and when the search for O’Leary’s successor in St. Louis will take place.