OA welcomes one of its own as new CEO

Craig Hassall

After a global search, Opera Australia has called back one of its own to assume the role of CEO of the flagship company after long-serving CEO, Adrian Collette AM, left at the end of 2012.

Late last week, Opera Australia Chairman Ziggy Switkowski, announced the appointment of Craig Hassall as Collette’s successor.

He said that Hassall was chosen from a strong field of applicants. “Craig was the outstanding candidate. He fulfilled all the requirements we were looking for including leadership and an understanding of the international cultural environment in which Opera Australia is now operating. In addition to this, his history with the company represents a personal passion and connection which is invaluable.”

Ziggy Switkowski is referring to the fact that Craig Hassall commenced his professional career with  (then) Australian Opera in 1987, as Planning Coordinator. Over the next seven years, he gained substantial breadth of experience working as Company Manager and Corporate Information Manager, focussing on national touring.

In 1994 he joined Bell Shakespeare as General Manager, developing their national touring program, until early in 1995 Donald McDonald recruited him back to Opera Australia as Marketing Manager.

In 1997 Craig became General Manager (Image, Special Events and Olympic Arts Festival) for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The last of these three portfolios was his major focus, involving four festivals over as many years, culminating in the final 2000 festival of over 6,000 artists which launched with The Festival of the Dreaming, Australia’s largest indigenous arts festival to date.

Following the Olympic Games, Craig ran Cove Australia, an independent business capitalising on his international connections and experience of large events consulting to venues on the staging and coordination of major cultural events for Australia. In early 2002 he returned to ensemble work as Deputy General Manager of the Sydney Theatre Company.

In early 2005 Craig was appointed Managing Director of the London based English National Ballet, which toured to Sydney in 2012. Simultaneously he was an Artistic Advisor to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on strategy, content, collaborations and Games time entertainment activation.

In 2012, Craig took on the role of Chief Operating Officer with another London based company, the international touring promoter, Raymond Gubbay Limited. His brief was business expansion, collaborations within the UK’s commercial entertainment sector and tours throughout Europe and Australia of popular classical concerts, operas and ballets.

After an absence from Australia of more than 8 years, Craig Hassall is looking forward to his return. “It is with great anticipation and pride that I am able to come home and lead a national organisation for which I have such a respect and fondness. The prospect of working alongside Lyndon Terracini and the great team at Opera Australia is thrilling and I am especially looking forward to playing a part in the ongoing success of one of Australia’s leading arts organisations.”

Craig is Australian and holds a Bachelor of Economics from The University of Sydney and a Graduate Diploma in Management from AGSM, University of NSW. He will move back to Australia prior to taking up his new post later this year.

The English National Ballet has an enduring and prestigious reputation. Established in 1950 as The London Festival Ballet by the legendary Dame Alicia Markova and Sir Anton Dolin, stars of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, it was renamed The English National Ballet to reflect its role as Britain’s only classical ballet company dedicated to touring nationwide and performing in unusual venues at prices affordable to a broad spectrum of patrons.

From the ENB, Hassall’s move to Raymond Gubbay seemed like logical progression. The English National Ballet has a longstanding relationship with the promoter, and created the first in-the-round ballet in 1997 with Derek Deane’s Swan Lake, which has since reached an audience of over 1/2 a million. In 2008 the Company added an in-the-round Strictly Gershwin to the repertoire, which recorded a second sell-out season in June 2011.

The ENB’s Chairman John Talbot paid tribute to Craig Hassall on his move to Gubbay: “Craig joined the English National Ballet some seven years ago and has played a leading role in ensuring the financial stability that we enjoy as well as being a very creative thinker who has led many exciting initiatives over that period.”

The aim of  Raymond Gubbay’s company, now in its 44th year, is to ‘Bring you the very best in opera, ballet and classical music.’ The company presents over 600 concerts a year with Classical Spectaculars, standing shoulder to shoulder with – in 2013 – Carmen sung in English by alternating casts, Swan Lake from the ENB, and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, all presented at The Royal Albert Hall; Bryn Terfel is scheduled to give recitals in more  intimate venues around England and The Mikado will take to the road, as will the Russian State Ballet of Siberia.

In recession hit Britain, the management of risk and the continuing debate about public vs private funding of arts companies have rarely been far from scrutiny.


Click here to read an interview with Craig Hassall about his approach to risk management and staging a ballet performance in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Click here to read about how The ENB approached creativity in productions vs their financial success.


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