During his 33-year tenure in Houston, Gockley turned the company into one of the most influential and innovative in the United States. HGO has presented 32 premieres under his leadership, including the debuts of John Adams' Nixon in China, Mark Adamo's Little Women, Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place, Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair, and Carlisle Floyd's Willie Stark and Cold Sassy Tree.
Gockley will succeed Rosenberg on January 1, 2006, meaning that Rosenberg will give up her position several months earlier than previously announced. She will serve as SFO's executive advisor through the end of 2006.
"Although the original plan was for David to take over as general director on August 1, 2006," Rosenberg explained in a statement, "we both agreed that it made far more sense for him to take over on January 1, when the opera is not in a rehearsal and performance period so he can have eight months to prepare for the opening of his first full season in September 2006."
Rosenberg, who had previously directed Stuttgart Opera, also came to San Francisco with a reputation for innovation, and her productions of such 20th-century works as Messiaen's Saint Francois d'Assise and Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre have been widely acclaimed. But she has also been confronted with fiscal problems that limited the company's ability to experiment‹a problem she cited when she announced that she would leave after one term.
In a statement, Gockley acknowledged that he would have to temper innovation with frugality. "My goal is to maintain artistic excellence while achieving fiscal balance and stability," he said. "San Francisco Opera must attract the finest singers in the world and, at the same time, devote maximum energy towards discovering and nurturing young talent."
Gockley joined Houston Grand Opera as business manager in 1970, after studying music at Brown and business at Columbia. He was named general director two years later. In addition to presenting many world and American premieres, he raised $72 million to build the Wortham Theater Center, expanded touring, and created the Houston Grand Opera Studio.