Tate’s Beard to Head Royal Opera House, Replacing Hall

Alex Beard
Alex Beard, deputy director of Tate, now heads the Royal Opera House in London. Photographer: Hugo Glendinning/Tate via Bloomberg

Alex Beard, deputy director of Tate and a man with a strong business background, will head the Royal Opera House in London, replacing Tony Hall. He takes over one of the world’s top opera and ballet companies.

Beard, 49, spent 19 years at Tate, the U.K. network of galleries. Joining as finance director in 1994, he helped turn an ex-power station into Tate Modern. The music enthusiast has served since 2008 on the board of Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.

The search for a new chief executive became necessary after Hall’s November appointment as director-general of the British Broadcasting Corp., where he previously headed BBC News.

Beard “brings a wealth of managerial experience from his very successful partnership with Nick Serota at Tate, as well as the insights and perspectives that this role has given him,” Royal Opera House Chairman Simon Robey said in the release. Serota is the director of Tate.

Beard said he was “absolutely delighted” to get the job. “To have the opportunity to build on Tony Hall’s achievements and strengthen the Royal Opera House’s reputation as one of the world’s leading artistic and creative forces is hugely exciting,” he said in the release.

Serota said Beard had made a “massive contribution” to Tate’s development, and commended his “quick intelligence and sense of enterprise.”

The new opera boss was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (a U.K. honor just below a knighthood) last year for services to the arts.

Low Profile

At Tate, he has run the business and income side, and kept a fairly low public profile.

Beard previously worked for seven years at the Arts Council -- the organization that distributes U.K. government cultural grants -- where he assessed grant recipients from a business standpoint. He also worked at KPMG in London in the mid-1980s.

His predecessor Hall, now 62, spent 12 years at Covent Garden. He brought stability to a house that, only 15 years ago, was on the brink of insolvency. Hall battled to tone down its elitist image, boosted the supply of affordable tickets, reached out to uninitiated audiences and delegated effectively.

In the decade to September 2011 (the most recently reported period), revenue rose 113 percent and reliance on government subsidy dropped 35 percent. The government today gives the opera house about 26 million pounds ($39.3 million) a year, roughly a quarter of the house’s total revenue. The house ranks among the world’s top companies for its artistic standards.

Opera Workshops

Hall -- who became a life peer in the House of Lords in 2010 -- also had the opera house build production workshops in Thurrock, southeast England, where he encouraged artistic projects involving the local community.

“You’ve got to have absolutely world-class singers, be elitist in that sense, but not elitist about the people who come and see what you do,” Hall told Bloomberg News in a 2006 interview.

In 2009, on top of his Royal Opera House job, Hall was put in charge of the Cultural Olympiad, the arts festival organized around the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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