Some surprising news from Cardiff – David Pountney has been appointed as chief executive and artistic director of Welsh National Opera. Surprising because following Pountney’s success in the 1980s as Director of Productions at English National Opera, he seemed to have been consigned to the fate of so many distinguished English opera directors – unappreciated and comparatively neglected in his homeland.
In a career that has spanned positions at Scottish Opera, ENO (where he was part of what was known as the “powerhouse” triumvirate of Pountney, conductor Sir Mark Elder and Sir Peter Jonas) and most recently the Bregenz Festival, Pountney has sometimes been a controversial yet always intelligently provocative director – some of his stagings, among them his ENO Rusalka and Hänsel und Gretel, are still seen as having been classics. His WNO track record includes an acclaimed Janáček cycle. But Pountney productions have been thinner on the ground in the UK of late.
WNO, a company that has similarly built its reputation on intelligent productions, has created a role that will combine directing duties with leading the company at an executive level. In this it is a not dissimilar appointment to that of Kasper Bech Holten as the Royal Opera’s new director of opera (Holten won a Gramophone Award recently for the DVD set of his own staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle at the Royal Danish Opera).
Pountney takes up his position in September of this year. He will work alongside the company’s music director, Lothar Koenigs and the two will collaborate on a new Pountney production of Berg’s Lulu in 2013.