Royal Opera House chooses new head

The Royal Opera House has appointed Alex Beard, deputy director of Tate galleries, as chief executive of the flagship British arts institution.

The elevation of Mr Beard, 49, to one of the UK’s highest profile arts jobs brings to an end a search that began in November when Tony Hall, the previous incumbent, was named director-general of the BBC.

Simon Robey, chairman of the Royal Opera House, welcomed Mr Beard’s appointment, saying he had “a passion” for the opera house’s work.

“He also brings a wealth of managerial experience from his very successful partnership with Nick Serota [Tate director], as well as the insights and perspectives that this role has given him,” he said.

Mr Beard takes the helm at a time when the opera house is attempting to combat an image of inaccessibility through initiatives such as simultaneous live cinema broadcasts, educational work and community engagement at its new scenery workshop in Thurrock, Essex.

It promotes the availability of lower-priced tickets – 40 per cent of its tickets cost £40 or less it says – and has plans to give the public more behind-the-scenes access to its Covent Garden home.

After joining Tate in 1994, Mr Beard was responsible for drawing up the business plan for Tate Modern, the gallery housed in the old Bankside power station whose redevelopment has helped revitalise the surrounding area of Southwark.

He has overseen operations at Tate since 2000 and has been on the board of Glyndebourne Productions, an East Sussex opera festival, since 2008.

Nicholas Serota, Tate director, said Mr Beard’s “sense of enterprise” had helped the organisation capitalise on opportunities. “Alex has made a massive contribution to the development and success of Tate since 1994,” he said.

The opera house has become financially secure under Lord Hall, who was seen as a steadying influence after a tumultuous period that saw the departure of a succession of leaders. Turnover at the Royal Opera House was £109.5m in 2010/11.

The ROH is Arts Council England’s biggest funded institution, receiving a subsidy of £27.9m, though this has declined to £25.2m in 2012/13 following government cuts. Other income in 2010/11 included box office takings of £37.7m, and donations, legacies and sponsorships of £20.7m.

Mr Beard will take up the new post, which carries a salary of £250,000, in the autumn.

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