Classical MusicMusic

Chicago Opera Theater Launches Search to Replace General Director Ashley Magnus

The Board of Directors of Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Chicago’s foremost producer of contemporary and re-imagined opera, announced recently that it will launch a national search to replace Ashley Magnus, Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director, who departed the company effective Friday, March 3, 2023.  Magnus leaves the Chicago area to unite her family in Southwest Michigan, where she and her husband opened the River Trade Brewing Company in Constantine, MI. She has served Chicago Opera Theater for 7 ½ years, including as General Director since January 2019.  Chicago Opera Theater Director of Development Meaghan Stainback Smallwood has been named the Interim General Director.

COT Board President Susan J. Irion said in a statement that the organization fully supports Magnus’ decision, noting that she has provided outstanding leadership and expertly secured solid financial footing for the company. 

“COT’s incredible artistic growth over the past several years would not have been possible without the financial stability fostered by Ashley’s work. Her inclusive leadership has allowed the company to focus on serving the operatic art form – and the people who create it,” added COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya.

“I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent at Chicago Opera Theater,” said Magnus. “The collaboration with world-class artists and creators, fantastic colleagues on staff and the board, and partnership with visionary donors and community partners has been life-changing for me. Working so closely with Lidiya Yankovskaya to shape the future of opera in Chicago and the field has been a particular highlight – I am incredibly proud and honored of all this organization has accomplished in these 7 years. COT is such an exciting company; I cannot wait to attend future performances and continue to support this organization.”

Founded in 1973, Chicago Opera Theater recently launched its 50th Anniversary celebration with the presentation of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring; in 1979, COT presented its Chicago premiere and was the first Chicago opera company to perform the works of Britten. Chicago Opera Theater’s 2022/23 season will continue with the world premiere of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing by Justine F. Chen & David Simpatico at the Harris Theater, March 23 & 25 2023; and COT’s fourth Vanguard Opera, The Cook-Off by Shawn Okpebholo & Mark Campbell at the Athenaeum Center for Thoughts and Culture, May 11, 2023.For more information on Chicago Opera Theater, visit