Stage Door News

Toronto: The Canadian Opera Company names Perryn Leech as its new General Director

Monday, November 30, 2020

After a year-long, international search, the Canadian Opera Company has named Perryn Leech its next General Director. Leech officially begins his position on March 1, 2021, with current COC General Director Alexander Neef continuing as company leader throughout the transition period.

“I am delighted to welcome Perryn to the Canadian Opera Company,” says Jonathan Morgan, Chair of the COC Board of Directors. “Perryn’s proven leadership made him a natural choice for this role: his commitment to artistic excellence, in addition to his creative thinking and tenacity, has led to award-winning programming and an admirable reputation as a leader who brings people together. On behalf of the COC Board, our staff, and audiences, I offer him our sincerest congratulations.”  

Leech is currently the Managing Director of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), having joined the internationally acclaimed opera house in 2007, and was appointed Managing Director in 2011. During his tenure, he successfully led HGO through the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, rallying performers, patrons, supporters, and the wider community in an uplifting, city-wide effort to create an alternate performance venue, appropriately named the “Resilience Theater.” 

In addition to balancing HGO financially, Leech has brought a collaborative and inclusive approach to increasing opera access points. In recent years, he has championed low-cost ticketing programs for students and new audiences in Houston and helped develop deeper creative relationships and partnerships with diverse communities.

“Perryn’s values closely mirror our own, particularly when it comes to breaking down barriers,” says Colleen Sexsmith, Chair of the COC Succession Committee. “The committee was struck by his passion for sharing the art form with others and his enthusiasm for bringing more opera out of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and into our neighbourhoods. Out of a long-list of more than 100 potential candidates from all around the world, Perryn stood apart for his vision of a more accessible COC, and I am most pleased to extend him a warm welcome to our organization.”

“I am so excited to be joining the Canadian Opera Company at this time of great challenge, but also great opportunity for opera,” says Leech. “Throughout the search process it was clear that the board is fully engaged in the evolution and growth of this brilliant company. The COC is already highly respected on the world stage and I am eager to get started with the outstanding group of creative talents that make up this wonderful company.”

The COC Succession Committee was assembled in the fall of 2019, following the appointment of COC General Director Alexander Neef to lead Opéra national de Paris in 2021. Over the next four months, Leechwill work closely with Neef, as well as the COC’s executive management team led by Christie Darville, COC Deputy General Director and Executive Director, Philanthropy and Audiences.

“Perryn holds a unique understanding of the full spectrum of the performing arts industry,” says Neef. “His comprehensive experience will be a tremendous asset to the Canadian Opera Company’s artistic, community, and development goals, and I look forward to seeing him start in the role.”

“Our entire team is glad to have Perryn join our COC community,” adds Darville. “The COC is like family, and I know that he will be given full support throughout the transition period for a successful new beginning in Toronto.”


The COC Succession Committee comprises:

Colleen Sexsmith, Chair of the COC Succession Committee

Nora Aufreiter, Member of the COC Board of Directors

Paul Bernards, Treasurer of the COC Board of Directors

Marcia Lewis Brown, Member of the COC Board of Directors and Sistema Toronto Board of Directors

Jonathan Morgan, Chair of the COC Board of Directors

Adrianne Pieczonka, Canadian soprano and Member of the COC Life Trustees Council

Richard Phillips, Former Chair of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors


Born in Brighton, England, Perryn Leech has dedicated more than 35 years to the performing arts industry, starting at the Glyndebourne Festival and then as a freelance lighting technician and Head of Lighting at the Edinburgh International Festival, before moving to English National Opera, and then served as Technical Director at Welsh National Opera. Since 2011, Leech has served as the Managing Director of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), one of the largest and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. Leech initially joined HGO in 2007 and served as the technical and production director, and then the chief operating officer before being appointed to the role of Managing Director. HGO has built a reputation for commissioning new opera, with 67 world premieres to date, and has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, and three Emmy Awards — the only opera company in the world to win all three honours.

Photo: Perryn Leech. © 2020 Lynn Lane.