Prolific London, Ont. opera director appointed to Royal Swedish Opera

Michael Cavanagh is one of the country's most sought-after opera directors. He was recently appointed the artistic director for the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.

Michael Cavanagh will take over as artistic director after the summer of 2021

Michael Cavanagh has been appointed the artistic director of the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. (Anita Watkins)

One of Canada's most sought-after opera directors has been appointed the artistic director of the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.

Michael Cavanagh, who calls London, Ont. home and lectures at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University, will be taking up the new position after the summer of 2021.

"It's an incredible new chapter, and quite honestly, I never expected to get here," said Cavanagh. "I'm a storyteller, I'm a director, and I do some writing, and I love to take on these classic operas and give them my own twist and also create new ones."

Cavanagh's career spans 20 years and includes more than 150 productions at more than 30 opera companies across North America and Europe.

He was a guest artist at the Royal Swedish Opera in years past, directing performances of Nixon in China and Aida, which both received audience and critical acclaim.

"I am so pleased to welcome Michael Cavanagh to the Royal Swedish Opera as our next artistic director and my successor," says Birgitta Svendén, the current artistic director and CEO of the Royal Swedish Opera in a statement. "He has a particularly broad artistic spectrum, he has a great international experience and last but not least, and he is a very accomplished leader. He will bring Operan into the future with new thoughts and ideas."

The Royal Swedish Opera, or Kungliga Operan, was established in 1773 as Sweden's national theatre for opera and ballet. It is regarded as one of the top opera houses in the world.

In his new role, Cavanagh will be in charge of all artistic decisions for the opera house, which boasts a season with 180 performances. He will decide which operas will be performed throughout the season and cast the performers.

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cavanagh's journey to London was mostly because of his wife, Jackalyn Short, who is an accomplished singer, voice teacher and lecturer at the Don Wright Faculty of Music. The two met during a production in Banff, Alberta more than 20 years ago and have lived in London for the last decade.

In his new role as artistic director, Michael Cavanagh will select and cast the performances for the Royal Swedish Opera. (Anita Watkins)

Cavanagh said he and his wife will be splitting their time between London and Stockholm when his new position starts after the summer of 2021, as long as the pandemic is under control.

"There are still some uncertainties, even though we have some hope on the horizon about this pandemic, there's still a bunch of questions to be answered," he said.

Live operatic performances were cancelled worldwide during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and have yet to resume.