Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo to become general director of Opera Philadelphia

Anthony Roth Costanzo, new general director and president of Opera Philadelphia, poses at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on April 15, 2024. (Matthew Placek/Opera Philadelphia via AP)

Anthony Roth Costanzo was hired Thursday as general director and president of Opera Philadelphia and will continue his career as a leading countertenor while taking over an ambitious company dealing with post-pandemic economic challenges.

"Even though I’m an opera singer, it’s my job to ensure the health of this art form I love,” he said in an interview this week. “And the other side of the coin is that I’m frustrated by opera and its inability to always innovate in the ways I think can help it grow. So, it’s something I have been building a skill set for for a long time, and I have been waiting for an opportunity that feels right.”

Constanzo, who turns 42 on May 8, will start work on June 1 and replace David Devan, who is retiring after 13 seasons in charge. Music director Corrado Rovaris has a contract through 2026-27.

Opera Philadelphia for 2024-25 dropped its well-regarded season-opening festival, which began in 2017, and lowered next season’s budget to $10 million — of which $1,275,000 is projected to come from ticket revenue. There will be just three mainstage productions, starting with the U.S. premiere of Missy Mazzoli's “The Listeners” on Sept. 25.

“They kept this season lean, which gives me some room to move around if I’m successful in bringing more resources,” Constanzo said. “I really feel like some of the future vision that we can build on at Opera Philadelphia is the idea of strategic partnerships and collaborations that help us pool resources and expand our wings beyond the world of opera."

Costanzo raised the funding for “Glass Handel,” an art installation at Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation as part of the O18 festival that featured the music of Philip Glass and George Frideric Handel. It included videos, live painting and dance.

“I put together the idea and the creative team, and then I built the budget,” he said in an interview this week. “I remember even driving the truck, the U-Haul truck with the sets in it.”

Board chairman Stephen K. Klasko said 42 people applied for the position. Costanzo impressed with “his optimism and charisma.”

“His ability to have raised a lot of contributor revenue for his programs was pretty incredible,” Klasko said. “We have to build new audiences that are excited about what we’re doing that aren’t necessarily coming out to see `Madame Butterfly.‘”

Costanzo appeared this year in a new production of Thomas Adès’ “The Exterminating Angel” at the Paris Opéra, headlines Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Eurydice” at the Metropolitan Opera starting May 16 and is in the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ “The Righteous” at the Santa Fe Opera starting July 13.

Holding an administrative role while singing is rare but not unprecedented. Soprano Beverly Sills became general director of New York City Opera in 1979 and continued singing for the next year.