A lifelong fan of opera and a long-serving Opera Carolina board member has taken on the role of executive director. Beth Hansen, a former corporate attorney, assumed the role in July. James Meena will remain with the company as artistic director. Meena and Hansen both report to the board of directors. Meena is responsible for the production side of Opera Carolina; Hansen has responsibility for the business side of the organization, including education, marketing, finance, customer service and the ticketing operation.
“I am so excited to join Opera Carolina,” said Hansen. “It’s a happy coincidence that I’m taking on this role during ‘The She Season,’ a season that celebrates strong female characters in opera. My biggest goal here is working to ensure the whole community feels a sense of inclusion in Opera Carolina. Opera is – and I say this emphatically – not an elitist art form. It’s for everyone. We are more than the female Viking in the helmet caricature.”
“We are so fortunate to have had the perfect candidate for this new role right in our midst,” said Board Chair Arlene Ferebee. “Beth brings strong business acumen, a legal background, development experience and an abiding love for opera to the executive director position. In addition, I have great appreciation for her thoughtful leadership style.”
“Having Beth in the executive director role benefits the entire organization,” Ferebee continued. “Maestro Meena has done an extraordinary job at being both artistic director and general manager. This dual-management approach, with Beth and Jim leading this great institution together, will enable Opera Carolina to be stronger and better than ever.”
Hansen, a graduate of Wittenberg University, grew up attending the Cleveland Opera. (“Carmen was my first opera,” she said, “and I’m thrilled to see Opera Carolina’s version this season.”) She also played flute, violin and piano as a child. She started college as a vocal performance major but pivoted and ended up at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Even during her corporate days, she still performed in various music groups, musical theater and sang at weddings.
She and her husband moved to Fort Mill, S.C. in 2007 when Goodrich Corporation consolidated its attorneys into the Charlotte office. She quickly got involved in Charlotte’s cultural scene and became part of the Arts & Science Council’s Cultural Leadership Training program. After that experience, she joined Opera Carolina’s Board of Directors in 2012 and served as vice chair for the past three years.
Going from board member to staff member was a natural progression for Hansen. She got to see the inner workings of Opera Carolina from the governance side and became acutely aware of Meena’s work on the national and international stage. (He’s also Principal Artistic Advisor for Toledo Opera, Artistic Director at Opera Grand Rapids and conducts in New York and throughout Italy.) As the board was exploring the executive director/artistic director split management dynamic; she approached them with the idea of considering her for the Executive Director role. The board agreed that hiring a board member with the Hansen’s business acumen (she holds an MBA and JD) would afford Meena more time to devote himself fully to the creative side of opera.
“My role will allow Jim more latitude to focus on creative pursuits,” she said. “He can focus less on the minutiae of running the organization.”
Hansen recently completed a five-month stint volunteering at Opera Carolina, engaging in and with all parts of the organization. “We’ve done our due diligence,” she said. “Everyone made sure this was a good fit for all. As a board member, I knew about Opera Carolina’s educational/community engagement and marketing campaigns; but I am even more impressed to see it from an insider perspective. We have a tremendous team – staff, board, volunteers, patrons. Our possibilities are endless.”
This year marks Opera Carolina’s 70th season. All Grand Opera performances are at the Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available by visiting operacarolina.org or by calling Carolina Tix at 704.372.1000.