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Timothy Vernon leaving Pacific Opera Victoria

Artistic director's four-decade run is one of longest in Canadian opera history
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Timothy Vernon, artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria, will remain involved with the company until his current five-year contract ends in June. PACIFIC OPERA VICTORIA

A search will begin shortly to hire a replacement for Pacific Opera Victoria’s founding artistic director, Timothy Vernon, who is leaving the position following the company’s 2022-23 season.

Vernon will remain involved with Pacific Opera, which he joined in 1980, until his current five-year contract ends in June. He will assist the company on a periodic basis while it searches for its next artistic director. In the interim, Vernon will conduct upcoming Pacific Opera productions of Carmen (October), The Birds (February), and Così fan tutte (April).

“It will be hard transition, after 43 years with the company,” said Ian Rye, Pacific Opera Victoria CEO. “But at the same time, it will be a privilege to celebrate him this year. We’re not saying good-bye, we’re saying thank-you.”

His departure is one of many at the executive level to hit the Greater Victoria arts and culture community in recent months, including top brass at the Royal BC Museum, Dance Victoria, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Rye said Vernon’s departure had been discussed for some time, however. Vernon has already programmed the next two seasons for Pacific Opera, and has committed to serve as guest conductor of the Victoria Symphony for Die Walküre, which will open the company’s 2023-24 season.

“I’ve got 10 years of energy and ideas and plans left,” Vernon said, opting to eschew the word retirement.

Vernon is a cornerstone of the performing arts community in Victoria, and has mentored numerous young performers over the years. His accolades include the Order of Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Award.

When he leaves, Vernon will have spent 43 years with Pacific Opera — one of the longest tenures in Canadian opera history. His resume alone warrants a year-long celebration, Rye said.

“When somebody who has been running a major cultural institution, and has been such an influence on artists and audiences, makes a transition, it’s so important to the community and company that we stand up and celebrate and thank that individual for their accomplishments.”

He has been a guest conductor with symphonies in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montréal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Nova Scotia and Ottawa. Though those experiences, Vernon came to realize the unique relationship between Pacific Opera and its participants, and the city in which they operate.

“I used to go to all these conferences, and eventually someone would sidle up and say, ‘OK, how do you get away with all this in Victoria?’ The focus on Canadian talent has grown incredibly in the last 20 years, and that is something to which I feel we have contributed by example.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com