Nashville Opera kicks off its 2016-2017 season this weekend with performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, but the real story may be playing out behind the scenes. By all appearances the company has experienced significant staff turnover at the top of the organization in recent months. Though no formal announcements have been made, it appears that Noah Spiegel is no longer with the company, after joining the organization as Chief Operating Officer in October 2012 and adding the Executive Director title in 2015. Spiegel is no longer listed on Nashville Opera’s staff page.
In addition to Spiegel’s apparent departure, the company has also witnessed the departure of its Senior Director of Sales and Marketing, Reed Hummel, and Senior Director of Development, Diane Zandstra. Hummel is currently working in communications for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Zandstra’s departure comes after only a few months in the role, having been appointed in December 2015.
All this comes at a time when Nashville Opera has appeared to be on a run of artistic successes. In June, New York City Opera gave four performances of the company’s original production of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. In September, the company released its commercial recording of Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a project on which Spiegel is listed as an executive producer.
Given the wave of financial difficulties facing opera companies just a few short years ago, it’s worrisome to see this level of staff turnover at the top of a major artistic organization in Nashville. Recent Form 990 filings on the company’s GivingMatters profile indicate a sizable annual shortfall in recent years, though the filing for the most recently completed fiscal year is not yet available.
Too often, the community is called to take notice of an artistic organizations difficulties only once a major crisis occurs. Staff turnover at the upper levels of an organization and persistent operating deficits are exactly the sort of symptoms that should grab our attention to ensure that one of the pillars of Nashville’s artistic life is not in peril.