Schankman’s St. Louis: Meet Opera Theatre’s New General Director

    By Paul Schankman

    When Andrew Jorgensen was ten years old, his father took him to see his first opera.  It has been his passion ever since.

    Now at 35, he is the new General Director at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

    “I’ve been a musical person since I was a little kid. My grandfather taught me to play the piano starting at the age of five, I sang in the school choir, I played the trombone in the marching band, I sang in the school musical,” Jorgensen said. “I never did any of it at a level that I would have consider a career in music.”

    But while he was attending Harvard, he had a revelation after he joined the glee club as a singer, and ended up as its manager.

    “Once I saw that was a career path, it is all I wanted to do,” he said.

    And it is all he’s done ever since, first in New York, where he spent five years working at The Met, and then in Washington D.C at the National Opera, where one of his jobs was scouting young talent.

    “Opera Theatre was one of my first scouting destinations,” Jorgensen said. “That was the summer the company did Terrence Blanchard’s first opera in jazz, Champion.”

    “I was completely hooked. I’ve been back every summer since. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to come to work here and that has been the fulfilment of an unbelievable dream. But I have admired this company and its work since I first began in the opera business,” Jorgensen said.

    And he says one of the things that will not change under his leadership is the company’s dedication to young performers.

    Jorgensen is also a strong advocate for commissioning new American operas.

    “2019 is our 44thseason. We will do our 28thworld premiere.  I can’t quantitatively prove than 28 is the most world premieres of any company in the country, but I would be willing to stake a lot on that,” he said. “We have just announced a commission for 2020 for a new work, based on the Oliver Sachs book, Awakenings.”

    “This idea that we are at the center of what this art form can be about, advancing the art form, the ways that we tell stories, the singers who will tell those stories and the artisans that will make those stories come to life, to have a role that will shape the future of the art form and to do it in an environment as supportive and friendly, as loving, as warm, and as welcoming as Opera Theatre and in a community as welcoming as St. Louis is beyond compare.”

    While this is Jorgensen’s first summer as Opera Theatre’s General Director, the first season curated by him comes next summer.

    “I don’t see a lot of change on the immediate horizon. I am a passionate believer in what this company does. And while I certainly might make somewhat different choices on a given day than (previous General Director Timothy O‘Leary), I think the model this company has followed over many years works and work beautifully.

    “Opera Theatre is unique in the firmament of arts organizations in this country.

    To serve Opera Theatre and be part of the St. Louis Arts community; I am living my dream job everyday.”

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