Alexander Neef, appointed General Director of the Canadian Opera Company in June 2008, has worked with some of the most prestigious arts organizations in the world.
His career as an artistic administrator has taken him from the Salzburg Festival to the RuhrTriennale in Germany, Opéra national de Paris and New York City Opera, to leading the Canadian Opera Company, Canada’s largest opera company and one of the most important in North America. In 2018, he was appointed the first Artistic Director of Santa Fe Opera, a role he will fulfill while continuing to lead the COC.
The Head of Casting for Opéra national de Paris from August 2004 to September 2008, Neef was one of Gerard Mortier’s closest collaborators and was instrumental in the production of over 80 operas. In addition to his role at Opéra national de Paris, in March 2007, Neef joined Gerard Mortier as Mortier prepared for his tenure at New York City Opera.
Previously, Neef was a member of the artistic administration at the RuhrTriennale, a three-year, multi-disciplinary festival in the Ruhr region of Germany where he was responsible for opera, theatre, and dance productions as well as concerts and events. Prior to his tenure at the RuhrTriennale, he spent two seasons at the Salzburg Festival as a production manager with the artistic administration.
In his current position, he has transformed the Toronto-based Canadian Opera Company into one of the most significant opera producers in the world, attracting globally-renowned singers for high-profile role debuts and gathering some of the most important conductors, directors, and designers for creative projects. Neef has also cultivated strong relationships throughout North America and Europe with co-producers such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Royal Opera House in London, Teatro Real Madrid, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, amongst many others.
It was under his leadership that the company returned to the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music for the first time since 1993 with its spectacular production of Robert Lepage’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables in March 2011. The COC swiftly returned to BAM in 2015 to present the U.S. premiere of Zhang Huan’s theatrically transcendent production of Handel’s Semele.
It’s also under Neef’s direction that the COC delivered the world premiere of Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe in fall 2015; the last world premiere at the COC had taken place nearly 16 years previously, in 1999. In October 2018, the Canadian Opera Company will host the world premiere of its latest opera commission: Hadrian, composed by Rufus Wainwright with libretto by Daniel MacIvor. A future season will feature new work by Montreal’s Ana Sokolović.
One of Neef’s most significant credits to the company include increasing the public profile and professional development opportunities of the COC’s Ensemble Studio program, a training program for young opera professionals. In 2010, an Ensemble Studio performance of a COC mainstage production was introduced as part of the annual season and in 2011, the annual Ensemble Studio Competition was launched, inviting the public to be part of the singers’ professional journeys by attending the final round of auditions for the Ensemble Studio.
Neef has a master of arts from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen where he studied Latin Philology and Modern History.
Alexander Neef (2018), photo by Gaetz Photography