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Meet The Englishman Now Leading Seattle Opera

Photo: Florangela Davila
Aidan Lang, Seattle Opera's new general director in his office. He's holding a 3-D laser printed image of his wife Linda Kitchen.

For the first time in 30 years, Seattle Opera is beginning its season with a new person in charge. Taking the place of Speight Jenkins, who retired, is Aidan Lang, an Englishman by way of New Zealand.

Lang is 56 years old. After a long history of freelance directing, leading music festivals in England and serving seven years as the general director of New Zealand Opera, he’s ready to forge ahead on what he says are Seattle Opera’s two big priorities: financing for both new administrative offices as well as a new Ring cycle.

“Actually, The Ring Cycle was one reason I was attracted to Seattle,” he said. Lang actually directed the entire Wagner oeuvre in Brazil, that country’s first production. Seattle Opera, Lang says, is known world over for its Ring performances and the fact that it’s a company that knows how to successfully take on something so mammoth greatly appealed to him.

“It stands for everything I think an opera company should be,” he said.

Lang inherits a 2014-15 season that was already planned out by Jenkins. It begins Oct. 18 with Mozart's "Don Giovanni."

He's not ready to announce specific details about the new artistic territory he'll explore.

But in an interview at his South Lake Union office, Lang says he likes productions that feel "fresh and different." 

An example from his time in New Zealand: the company's production of "Rigoletto," which was set in modern day Italy.

Lang says one type of production he’s eyeing is something that really embraces technology. (In 2009, for example, the Royal Opera House debuted an opera composed of tweets).

“The interaction between us humans and technology is the current reality,” he said. “We’re in a hi-tech city and we think that (something tech-oriented) would be a really good way in for someone in the tech sector who maybe hadn’t considered opera before.”

Speaking of non-opera goers or opera newbies, Lang says a favorite composer is the Czech composer Leoš Janá?ek.

“He gives these incredibly intense gripping operas, which I always think are the best things for a first-time opera goer. One side of the opera argument is you should start with Puccini or ‘Carmen.’  But actually I think you need to start with a piece that is more likely to speak to what a non-opera goer is experiencing when watching ‘Breaking Bad.’”

Lang is a fan of edgy TV series and those with darker storylines and anti-heroes. “The Killing” is a favorite series, and he has also started watching “Boss.”

Some other things about the new local arts leader:

His first opera: “The Marriage of Figaro,” which he saw when he was 11 at Covent Garden.

The last music he downloaded: Regina Spektor.

What he’s reading: “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton.

The most personal item on his desk: A tiny 3-D printed “action figure” of his wife, Linda Kitchen, a former soprano. (The couple have one child, daughter Eleanor).

His favorite coffee beverage: Something called a “flat white,” which he says is the perfect balance of strong coffee and milk. It’s something in between a latte and a cappuccino and while in New Zealand, he’d rave about the country’s coffee to his visiting Italian opera singers who eventually agreed with him.

Where he’s putting down roots: North Bend. “I can open the window and hear the Snoqualmie River rushing by. I find that very relaxing," he said.