Gockley, who has led the company since 1972, was named Pamela Rosenberg's replacement at San Francisco Opera in February. He will assume his new post at the beginning of 2006.
The new director's biggest challenge will be escaping from Gockley's shadow. During his 33 years in Houston—the longest tenure of any American opera director, according to the HGO— Gockley turned the company into one of the most influential and innovative in the United States. HGO has presented 33 world 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's successor will also be charged with boosting HGO's fundraising. Because of shrinking corporate funding, the company recently cut free performances, outdoor simulcasts, and other programs.