Fort Worth Opera is on a roll, having hired two new directors one week after announcing Plácido Domingo as the head of its new National Artistic Council. Tuomas Hiltunen is the company's new general director and Joe Illick has been named artistic director.
The hirings are the culmination of a search that began in February when longtime director Darren K. Woods was suddenly terminated.
The Finnish-born and London-trained Hiltunen joins the Fort Worth Opera from the international Barenboim-Said Foundation, where he most recently served as director of administration and management. According to a release from the opera, Hiltunen was instrumental in significantly growing the Foundation’s endowment, advancing its brand, and developing and executing its business plans and strategies.
The Fulbright Scholar also studied at Columbia University, lectured at Barnard College, and became the director of Finnish studies at Columbia University. As a performer, Hiltunen has worked extensively in theater, opera, concerts, television, and film in Finland, England, and the United States. He also appeared in the 2009 film Confessions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher.
“I am honored to be part of the Fort Worth community and Fort Worth Opera," Hiltunen says in a release. "I would like to thank the association for giving me a chance to lead this fine organization in its mission toward excellence. I am looking forward to sharing thrilling experiences of music and theater with the broader Fort Worth community, and to bringing in new and expanded audiences to share our passion for this ever-changing art form.”
Illick has been Fort Worth Opera’s music director since 2002, having previously served as the artistic director of Florida Grand Opera, Lake George Opera, and Shreveport Opera. He has also conducted for opera companies all around the world, and his opera for all ages, UnShakeable, was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and presented in 2016. His latest work, Feel the Tango, will premiere in Santa Fe this month, alongside two 15-minute operas by Jake Heggie and Mark Adamo.
“The Fort Worth community has been extremely enthusiastic about having great opera since the day I arrived, and I look forward to having our team bring more great opera to Fort Worth,” says Illick. “We have plans to reach broader audiences, present exciting new works, and form new collaborations with other arts organizations.”
Board president Nelson Claytor says, “The combination of Tuomas’ and Joe’s passion, experience, artistic vision, energy, and commitment to the arts and the Fort Worth community is exactly what we need to achieve the Opera’s vision of bringing new audiences to enjoy and love opera for a lifetime.”