Thursday, June 20, 2019

A fond farewell to Aidan Lang

Aidan Lang photo by Philip Newton
Members of the Seattle Opera staff share funny stories, fond memories, and words of gratitude for a man who's been a truly awesome boss, friend, mentor, listener, fearless leader, and innovative thinker. Tomorrow, June 21, is Lang's last day at Seattle Opera before departing to become the next leader of Welsh National Opera. ( "Some of you know that Welsh National Opera holds a special place in my heart. It is where my career in opera began. I consider WNO to be my artistic home—the only company for which I would even consider departing the Pacific Northwest."). During Aidan's six years here, Seattle Opera increased its audiences, particularly, young people, created a new civic home for opera at Seattle Center, introduced new chamber opera productions in locations around the city, and spurred complex conversations surrounding race, justice, and representation. 

"Aidan Lang is a gentleman of the truest sense. From the day I started working at Seattle Opera, he always made sure to have a personal presence within our organization. He was always approachable and welcomed feedback from everyone. One of the most impressive examples of his work ethic and philosophy is the fact that he makes it a point to know everyone’s name. I have worked for quite a few companies where I was just a face in a crowd, never with Aidan. His intentions are genuine and from an altruistic perspective with his dealings both inside Seattle Opera and in our community as a whole. I know we all wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors and welcome him back for a visit anytime he would like to see his old stomping grounds."
- Greg Schell, Ticket Operations Manager 

"I will miss Aidan’s sunny disposition, his ready smile, our collaboration over the dressing room assignments, and our friendly debates about which is better, a flat white or the more reasonably priced, single shot 1% latte."
Paula Podemski, Company Manager 

"Aidan has developed steadfast fan base at Seattle Opera. He seamlessly leads with those who join in the talk backs after each production opening dialogues that further the experience. If I’m not paying attention, the talk back could continue for hours, so giving him nonverbal cues to wrap it up has turned into an art. I will 'miss' his knowing smile, when I’ve been giving him the 'Aidan, shut it down' cue, which is different from the 'Dude! Stop talking now' cue, while he continues to pass the mic for another 3-5 minutes. But this does result in getting the best closing comments to a deep insightful discussion. Once the talk has ended, we have had to developed code words to foster his expedited exit, so we can clear the building for lockup. Once again, if I just left, conversations would still be happening when I arrive at the theatre the next day. I will also 'miss' my trying to get the lobby cleared at the end of an intermission when he is chatting up McCaw Hall staff while the orchestra is tuning. He would just mosey down aisle E, as Maestro steps on the podium. His timing was always mix of a perfect last second suave, while simultaneously annoying the house manager. I will also 'miss' the look on his face when he sees me drinking an iced chai. A mix of disappointment and icky. It has been a treat working with Aidan."
- Corrie Yadon​, Patron Experience Manager 

Backstage during Nabucco, Lang backstage with members of the Seattle Opera Chorus: YeonSoo Lee, German Mendoza and Karl Reyes. 
"I appreciate many things about Aidan. For example, in our new home, he was responsible for giving us a Hair and Makeup studio, a space which hadn't existed in our old building. This has led to more jobs and better production quality in our performances. Thank you, Aidan."
- Liesl Alice Gatcheco​, Hair and Makeup Manager

"There are many things I will miss about Aidan. How he personally introduces himself to every new person who joins the team⁠—no intern has ever worked at Seattle Opera without meeting him by their second day. How he refuses to acknowledge that he’s my boss (or my boss’ boss’ boss) and prefers to go by 'colleague' and that he gets modest when you argue. How literally any question about opera ends with a fascinating story from his careeryou mention bringing animals onto the stage, and you end up with an epic saga of doves, an insane Yorkshire woman with a gun, and Princess Diana. With Aidan, you can bring him a drink at the Big Opera Party, and he’ll end up behind the table with the mixologist mixing drinks for Seattle Opera staff. You can try doing work at a Piano Tech Rehearsal, but by Act II, he’ll be sitting next to you, singing Carmen, and you’ll eventually get so distracted that you teach him how to use Instagram instead (he’s an influencer now – follow him @aidanlang!). I’ll miss keeping track of his jumper (read: sweater) when he loses it at McCaw Hall. I will miss him offering you an espresso whenever you visit his office, and that if you can’t find him at the Opera Center, you can call any local coffee shop and ask for the British man ordering the flat white. However, I won’t miss when he promises to go to SoulCycle and never does (and then chooses to mock us on Instagram for it instead – I told you to follow him! He’s funny!)."
Caroline Webb, Stewardship & Events Manager

General Director Aidan Lang brought his acclaimed production of "The Marriage of Figaro" to Seattle in 2016. A longtime freelance stage director, this was the only show that Lang directed at Seattle Opera. Photo by Philip Newton
"Toni Zeigler and I were eating our dinner in the old building one evening. For us this was about 6 or so and we often got the opportunity to talk to Aidan as he grabbed a soda to drink on the way home. This evening, we told him that we were concerned about the upcoming production of Traviata, because it had no intermission and patrons were fearful that they would need to use the restroom during the production. Aidan met this with some disbelief, reminding us that the Lord of the Rings movies were three of the longest movies ever. I told him I had never managed to sit through one of them without running to the restroom. He whipped out his cell phone and showed us the U pee app, which tells you when you can go to the bathroom and not miss anything important in the movie. It was a very amusing reaction to us, and especially when we told Dan, our manager at the time, about this conversation, he looked at us as though we were crazy, and we had to call it up on our cell phones. Aidan to the rescue."- Mary Hobbs​, Senior Account Representative 

"The fact that Aidan Lang's heart was more invested in engaging with Seattleites, People of Color, and young folks than on upholding a certain status quo made me feel like this art form was also for me. Thank you, 'Big Boss' for always letting me make fun of your delightful British phrases."
- Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor, Communications & Public Engagement Manager

General Director Aidan Lang greets attendees at the Topping Out ceremony for Seattle Opera's new building. Philip Newton photo.

"In August of 2018, upon the sad passing of Aretha Franklin, Angel Blue, then in Seattle to sing a lead role in Porgy and Bess, helped Seattle Opera pay tribute to Aretha Franklin’s legacy by singing 'Natural Woman' for us to record and share online. Listening to a voice as powerful as Angel Blue’s sing that song gave me something of an epiphany; it fleetingly crystallized some of the concepts I’ve long understood emotionally to be true about the importance of art in the human condition. The emotional connection that the work of Aretha Franklin made with so many millions of us has changed us, whether profoundly or only slightly. That so many of us were changed by her work was how she changed the world.

Aidan Lang has always clearly understood this relationship of art to life. One of his first acts upon arriving at Seattle Opera was to elucidate for all of us, at a staff meeting, that art should always strive to create this emotional experience, and that we can trust the emotional experience to change the viewer. He is also very clear on the responsibility of art to serve life, society, and community. To serve in this way, it is not enough that the quality costumes or artistry of the singing or the beauty of the sets are enjoyable in themselves. Those elements are essential, but their importance is in how they serve the story and the experience. The experience is our responsibility. His vision for Seattle Opera placed us firmly in the context of service to our community—community in the widest possible sense. Over his tenure he has never wavered from this imperative.

Seattle is blessed with a rich theatre ecosystem, which is diversifying and expanding every year. There is profound, electrifying work being done every day in this city at all levels of professionalism and at all budgets. Seattle Opera represents the art of stagecraft and musicianship at its zenith, but thanks to Aidan, Seattle Opera is fully committed to honoring the high expectations of our audience members, new and veteran, in that the art experiences we provide will strive to be a resource for our audiences in striving to live courageous and intentional lives. "
- Lindsey O'Connor, Senior Accountant
Gala Co-Chair Linda Kitchen and husband Seattle Opera General Director Aidan Lang. Philip Newton photo

Inspired by music from the musical Sweeney Todd
(M. Brazeau, J. Dean, and E. Hawkins - with apologies to S. Sondheim) 

Attend the tale of Aidan Lang!
He put on operas where singers sang.
A shining future he steered us toward,
Inspiring staff and coralling the board,
Our Aidan, our Aidan Lang,
The man who saved us from John Street

In twenty fourteen, a clever hire
Brought him up here from a distant Shire.
So learned, friendly, and quite polite,
He thawed out our freeze with a hot flat white,
did Aidan, did Aidan Lang,
The man who saved us from John Street

His means were few and his stage was bare:
A big red drape and a single chair.
They wrote, they called, and they emailed too:
“This Eurotrash, it will not do!
O Aidan, O Aidan Lang!”
The man who saved us from John St.

And in the face of that blue-haired rage
He knew the secret was to engage
With talkbacks, forums, a chamber show
He gave them the tools that would help them to grow
With Aidan, with Aidan Lang,
The man who saved us from John Street

Time to say good-bye, Rogers,
Leave that dump behind!
Hear the news:
We’ve Needle Views

A slate of operas unseen before
Nabucco, Katya, Wick-ed Count “Or”
And since he loves a Mac for the job
We also did one on that Silicon slob!
Thanks, Aidan, thanks, Aidan Lang,
The man who saved us from John Street

And now he leaves us for distant Wales
To find a way he can boost their sales
A life in operas’s a crazy quilt,
And we’ll always love him for what he built
dear Aidan, dear Aidan Lang,
The man who saved us from John Street

Thank you, Aidan. We'll miss you!