Considered one of the major innovators in American opera, David Gockley has been general director of San Francisco Opera since 2006. Under his leadership, San Francisco Opera has commissioned eight world premieres, two West Coast premieres and a new production of Wagner’s epic four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen.
In his first months as general director, Gockley took opera to the community with a free outdoor simulcast to San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza—the first in the Company’s history—in May 2006. The subsequent twelve simulcasts throughout the Bay Area, including nine at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, have collectively drawn more than 250,000 opera fans. These simulcasts are made possible by the Company’s Koret-Taube Media Suite, which Gockley led San Francisco Opera to create in 2007. It is the first permanent high-definition broadcast-standard video production facility installed in any American opera house.
Gockley’s achievements at San Francisco Opera encompass the appointment of Nicola Luisotti as Company music director; the creation of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, scheduled to open in winter 2016; formal establishment of San Francisco Opera’s Education Department, a program that provides annual educational activities, performances and workshops for students, teachers, families and adults; growing San Francisco Opera’s endowment; establishment of the San Francisco Opera Archives; and collaborating with the Company’s more than 900 employees, including nine labor union partners, to produce outstanding opera. Gockley retires from San Francisco Opera in July 2016, culminating a 44-year career as one of the most important opera impresarios today.
Gockley came to San Francisco from Houston Grand Opera (HGO), where he was general director for more than three decades. Under his leadership, HGO received a Tony, two Emmys and two Grammy Awards and became America’s leading commissioner and producer of new works. By 2006, HGO had 35 world premieres and six American premieres to its credit. Gockley also oversaw the creation of the Wortham Theater Center, HGO’s home built entirely with private funds.
David Gockley was born in Philadelphia in 1943 and pursued vocal studies at the New England Conservatory. He then studied conducting and composition at Brown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University Business School.