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Va. Opera hires interim artistic help

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By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 7:05 PM

The Virginia Opera moves fast. Five days after terminating the contract of Peter Mark, who led the company as artistic director, music director and conductor for 36 years, the company announced the appointment of an artistic adviser, Robin Thompson, to help guide it through its interim period of transition while it seeks a new director.

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Thompson was most recently the producing artistic director at the New York City Opera, where he worked from 1996 to 2009. There, he helped oversee the company's critically acclaimed program under then-general director Paul Kellogg. His tenure saw warm reviews of innovative productions, particularly a concentration on the operas of Handel, and a continuation of the company's mandate to cultivate young singers - a mandate shared by the Virginia Opera.

"I am here primarily to offer a sense of stability to the casting and season planning process during the transition," Thompson said in a company press release, "but also to offer new ideas to the Virginia Opera team.

"It is about the future of the institution, not me," he said. The statement echoed, almost exactly, one made by Mark last week.

Mark had hinted at legal action against the company after last week's announcement. Through his lawyer, he made a compromise proposal to the opera's executive committee; it was turned down.

One immediate issue is that of finding a conductor for "The Valkyrie," a three-hour version of Wagner's "Die Walküre" that Mark was to have conducted when the company performs it in early 2011. Thompson, according to the press statement, will help the opera find a suitable replacement conductor.

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