Longtime Indianapolis Opera director resigns

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Artistic Director James Caraher has resigned after 33 years with the Indianapolis Opera, the general manager of the struggling arts organization said Wednesday afternoon.

GM Carol Baker said the board of directors received an email Monday morning from Caraher stating that he was leaving the company effective immediately. Caraher, 63, was appointed the opera's music director in 1981 and artistic director in 1995.

Baker declined to say whether Caraher gave a reason for the departure.

"When you deal with personnel issues, there's only so much someone can say about that," she said. "I'm heartbroken that Jim has decided to resign and exit the company in such a swift manner."

Caraher could not be reached for comment.

The departure is the second troubling event to hit the 39-year-old opera company in the past month or so. In late March, the arts group canceled its fourth and final production of the 2013-14 season in the wake of "financial challenges."

"Albert Herring," set for April 25 through May 4 at the Basile Opera Center, was called off. In a prepared statement, the opera said it decided to not to risk "further financial strain" by "pushing forward with the final production of the year."

Caraher, who was born in Clinton, N.Y., previously was music director and principal conductor for the Syracuse Opera Company.

The Indianapolis Opera's website says he frequently serves as guest conductor for other symphonies and opera companies, including the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Kentucky Opera, Opera Memphis, Buffalo Opera and Nashville Opera. He and his family live in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Opera  has yet to announce its plans for the 2014-15 season. Baker said she was holding off announcing those selections until funding was secure, adding “We don’t want to embark on a season and have to cancel another production.”

Caraher’s duties included crafting that season and presenting it to the board of directors for approval.

“This is a big loss for us,” said Baker. “It’s not going to derail us, but it opens to the door to different conversations.”


  • Caraher departure
    I, too, am saddened to see Jim choose to leave at this critical time in the the life of the Indianapolis Opera Company, but the many positive changes taking place within the opera's management and funding strategy give me hope that the company will survive and thrive. Most arts organizations see a 5-7 year turnover of key personnel, so Jim's 33 year tenure is rare. It's been a great run, and now the opera company has the opportunity for fresh insight and direction.
  • Opera
    I hate to say it, but opera is probably doomed in most second tier cities. I was a long time Lyric Opera of Chicago subscriber and have been to the Indianapolis Opera in the past, but it really isn't on my radar these days. I just saw the Met's Cosi fan Tutte in the theater this week for only $18. Tough to beat that price/performance. If I need a fix of live opera, I'll probably just go to Chicago or something. The rise of HD broadcasting from some of the world's greatest opera houses is probably the death knell for regional opera.
  • WOW
    I can only say that I am heartbroken at this decision whether "pre ordained" or not...having performed with multiple seasons with IOC I can only say that Mr. Caraher was an amazing conductor an Music Director and will be sorely missed.
  • saddened
    I am saddened that Jim is leaving - I am sure there are a lot of details that have not come out. But I know I will miss working with him - I have appreciated so much what he has brought to this community.
  • Shocking
    If this information is true, it is shocking.
  • Jim Caraher Will Be Missed
    Under the musical direction of Jim Caraher, Indianapolis Opera gained respect and affection from many fine musicians and singers. His rock-solid conducting, good nature, and collegiality endeared him to top operatic singers who jumped at the chance to sing in Indy.
  • Not the whole story
    Jim was asked to resign from the Opera Company. There was a secret board meeting with a vote last Monday. Nobody contacted Jim to let him know, and the person who was supposed to inform him of the decision heard about it through a 3rd party. Then the board accidentally sent him the minutes from the secret meeting. When he received these, he wrote his letter of resignation, packed up his office, and is out. This information came to me from an insider at the opera house. I find it disgusting that James would be treated so callously after all the years of service.
    • SAD
      It makes me very sad that a city the size of Indianapolis cannot support an opera company.I hope a fine replacement can be found for Mr. Caraher and wish him a happy retirement.

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