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Santa Fe Opera Gets New General Director

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Charles MacKay, general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, will take over next year as head of the Santa Fe Opera, where he watched his first performance at age 9 and became "totally smitten."

MacKay, 57, will succeed Richard Gaddes as general director starting in October 2008, SFO board President Susan F. Morris announced Friday.

"I'm so thrilled and delighted to be returning to this great company that I've loved and admired for … almost my entire life," MacKay said in an interview.

Born in Albuquerque, MacKay grew up in Santa Fe and worked part- or full-time for a decade at the opera, starting at age 18 as an orchestra assistant and French horn player. His positions included development manager and business manager.

He has been general director of Opera Theatre Saint Louis since 1985. Active in opera affairs nationally, he also is chairman of the board of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera.

Morris cited MacKay's artistic, fiscal and administrative skills and called him "a natural for this position."

MacKay will be SFO's third general director. Gaddes, who had announced in August that he planned to retire, took over in 2000 after the retirement of John Crosby, who founded the open-air summer festival in the hills outside town in 1957.

MacKay (whose late parents were singers — although not professionally) saw "Die Fledermaus" at age 9.

"I was totally smitten. … That experience really helped to make me a crusader for opera education," said MacKay, who has promoted an artists-in-training program for high school students while in St. Louis.

Opera "can have a tremendous impact on children and young people. … Kids, I think, don't have a lot of the baggage or preconception about opera that many adults have," he said.

MacKay was director of finance and administration for the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C., for five years before Gaddes — who established the St. Louis opera and was its general director — hired him as executive director in 1984.

Gaddes will stay in his job as general director in Santa Fe through the 2008 summer season and retire at the end of September.