USC Thornton Board of Councilors member selected to head LA Opera
Christopher Koelsch, an active member of the USC Thornton School of Music Board of Councilors and a participant in the Board-student mentorship program, was named president and CEO of LA Opera, where he has served as senior vice president and chief operating officer since 2010. His new post is effective on Sept. 15.
Koelsch’s work for the company has included artistic and strategic planning with music director Plácido Domingo, as well as managing the administration — including production, marketing, public relations and education. He also has helped produce more than 30 new productions and seven television recordings.
USC Thornton long has had strong ties with LA Opera, which launched in 1986 with Verdi’s Otello. This inaugural production marked the opera debut of baritone Rod Gilfry, now on USC Thornton’s vocal arts faculty as comprimario.
Since then, USC Thornton’s students, alumni and faculty have played pivotal roles in LA Opera’s history and has helped to bring the company into the top tier of the contemporary opera world.
“I treasure the seven years I spent on the music staff there under the founding general director Peter Hemmings,” said Brent McMunn, assistant conductor at LA Opera from 1989 until 1996 and currently music director for USC Thornton Opera. “It’s been gratifying to see the company continue to grow and assume an ever more significant presence in both the community and the world.”
The relationship between USC Thornton and LA Opera also continues to grow. Grant Gershon ’85, a USC Thornton alumnus and member of the Board of Councilors, is LA Opera’s resident conductor and chorus master; Karen Cooksey DMA ’09 is associate chorus master; and alumna Carin Gilfry ’07 and former student Natasha Flores were members of LA Opera’s prestigious Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program.
In addition, USC Thornton faculty Terry Cravens, Judith Farmer, Kristy Morrell, James Self and JoAnn Turovsky, as well as many alumni, play in the LA Opera Orchestra. USC Thornton students and alumni also sing in LA Opera’s chorus.