Opera Vista founder and artistic director Viswa Subbaraman will be the new artistic director of Milwaukee’s Skylight Music Theatre, beginning in fall 2013.
But Subbaraman will continue as artistic director of the Houston company for the next few years and will conduct at least one production per season, said Opera Vista Dramaturge Alex Lawler. After that, he and the company’s leadership will decide whether to transfer his responsibilities to a successor.
Subbaraman founded the contemporary chamber opera company in 2005. The company usually has offered a handful of productions each season, stressing new works, Houston premieres and edgy content, typified by Thomas Ade’s Powder Her Face, staged last year. Notable Opera Vista projects have included the world premiere of James Norman’s Wake… and the Texas and New Orleans premieres of Amy Beach’s “Cabildo.” Subbaraman also created the annual Vista Competition for new opera.
In contrast, Skylight is a full-spectrum musical theater stressing familiar, mainstream fare, chiefly Broadway classics and recent hits, in considerably larger productions than Vista does, with a busier schedule of almost 100 performances each year. Its 2012-13 lineup includes The Sound of Music, Porgy and Bess, Avenue Q and Pump Boys and Dinettes, along with a Gilbert and Sullivan revue and an Edith Piaf bio-musical.
“The fact that Skylight does everything, from opera to musical theater to operettas and revues — I really find that intriguing,” Subbaraman said. “Skylight has an outstanding national reputation for doing top-notch work, and I’m excited to be joining such an inspiring and vibrant organization. One of my goals is to develop a conversation with the audience over the course of a season. To have this opportunity to shape the artistic vision of one of the country’s premier musical theater companies is a true honor.”
Skylight’s current artistic director, Bill Theisen, had announced in 2011 that he would step down after the 2012-13 season, his ninth with the company. Amy Jensen, Skylight’s managing director, said she expects Subbaraman to bring “a new vision — along with some surprises” to the 54-year-old company.
Subbaraman, 35, grew up in West Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music and biology from Duke University, a master’s in music performance and orchestral conducting from Texas Tech University and a master’s in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He traveled to France as a Fulbright grant recipient in 2002 and served as assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France in Paris from 2002 to 2005.