The Houston Grand Opera announced Nov. 20 that Managing Director Perryn Leech is leaving the organization after helping to guide it through the first wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Leech will continue to serve as managing director through Dec. 31, after which he will act as a consultant during the leadership transition, the Grand Opera said in a news release.
Leech has been with the Grand Opera for nearly 14 years and served as managing director for the past nine years.
“We are indebted to Perryn for his strong leadership, his positive determination and his sense of humor over the past 9 years,” Houston Grand Opera Board Chair Allyn Risley said in a statement. “Although he is stepping down at the end of the year, I am delighted that he will be available to help through the company’s transition into new leadership. Many of us will miss him greatly as he heads onto his next opportunity.”
With Leech’s departure, the Grand Opera said it will change the company’s leadership structure. Currently, leadership responsibilities are divided between Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers and Leech as managing director. Both Leech and Summers report to the Grand Opera’s board of directors.
The Grand Opera said a search committee will be organized to pursue the recruitment of a general director, a single leader of the organization. Summers will remain with HGO as artistic and music director, ultimately reporting to the general director, the Grand Opera said.
Under Leech’s leadership, the Grand Opera reached new fiscal heights and artistic accomplishments, even as it navigated a series of unforeseen challenges, the organization said.
Hurricane Harvey forced the organization to relocate to the George R. Brown Convention Center for the entire 2017-2018 season as its existing home at the Wortham Theater Center underwent repairs.
More recently, Leech has had to manage the financial fallout of Covid-19, which saw donations evaporate and ticket sales dry up as most of the current season was canceled in light of social distancing mandates.
“Houston Grand Opera is an extraordinary and special company and it has been a huge privilege to co-lead it through some amazing, and some challenging times,” Leech said. “I am incredibly proud of my colleagues for their outstanding work. I wish the comapny a bright future and I will continue to be amongst HGO’s biggest fans.”
Leech could not be reached for additional comment.
Earlier this month, the Grand Opera announced it wouldn’t resume live, in-person performances until fall 2021.
That marked the second major change to HGO’s 2020-2021 schedule. In June, HGO canceled 33 of its planned 47 performances scheduled to take place in the Wortham Theater Center’s main Brown Theater and smaller Cullen Theater.
To make up for the lost revenue, the Grand Opera announced in June that it would cut its staff by 27%. Those who remained, including top officials, would take a 15% salary reduction or have their hours reduced to a level that accounts for the shorter production schedule.
The June announcement canceled in-person productions until spring 2021, when HGO had hoped to perform Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s “Breaking the Waves” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Alternative programming for these productions will be announced later this year.
In place of in-person performances, the Grand Opera has moved to online performances.
The Grand Opera’s staff cuts came once the $2.5 million loan it received under the federal Paycheck Protection Program ran out.