The announcement comes as the SFO is preparing to celebrate Runnicles' 50th birthday with a gala concert tonight. The conductor will lead a program of Wagner with soprano Carol Vaness, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, and others. The festivities also include a ceremony marking Runnicles' investiture as an Office of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), an honor announced by Queen Elizabeth in June.
The Scottish Runnicles, who also serves as principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York, caused a stir earlier this year when he told a German paper that he would leave the United States if George W. Bush was re-elected president. In the end, however, politics did not seem to figure into his decision to remain.
"It has been a privilege over the past twelve years to help shape the company," he said in a statement. "I am honored to have the chance to deepen my relationship with this extraordinary organization and am excited about its future."