The National Opera Center recently dedicated its Technical/Production Office in honor of famed University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alumnus James D. Ireland (BBA Business Administration, 1966; MM 1970), a well-respected opera administrator who helped develop Opera America into a leading organization for arts advancement in the United States.
Ireland passed away at the age of 69 in September 2012 after a brief battle with lung cancer. The ceremony and dedication took place this past November at the Opera America headquarters in New York City. Numerous friends and family from around the country were there to honor Ireland, including his sister and UC alumna, Betty Scott Ireland (BS Education, 1967).
“To know Jim was to love and admire him,” said Opera America President/CEO Marc Scorca during the dedication. “With cherished memories and enduring affection, let’s be joyful that James D. Ireland has a permanent home at the National Opera Center in good company with other dynamic leaders who forged an American opera industry.”
“Dynamic leader” is an appropriate moniker for Ireland, who had a long and storied career in the arts. A native of Charleston, West Virginia, he made a name for himself locally, often performing with the Charleston Light Opera Guild and playing organ for several area churches.
Ireland began studying voice at CCM under the tutelage of Helen Laird in 1965, shortly before Laird established the conservatory’s Musical Theatre Program in 1968. During his time at CCM, he also studied conducting with Elmer Thomas and piano with John Quincy Bass.
After graduating from CCM in 1970, he worked heavily behind the scenes to promote opera across the country. From 1972–79, he worked with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and created their opera/musical theatre arm. It was also during this time that he began working with Opera America, which has since developed a glowing international reputation.
From there, Ireland transitioned into one of the leading opera company administrators in America. For 22 years, he served as Managing and Producing Director of the acclaimed Houston Grand Opera and helped the reputation of the company grow through numerous world premieres and other artistic endeavors.
He later served as Director of Hartford Stage in Connecticut (2002–05) and the President and first CEO of the Orlando Opera (2006–09). At the time of his passing, he was working as a consultant for numerous opera organizations across the country.
JoAnne Greiser (BA English, 1968/BS Education, 1969), who was friends with Ireland when they were both students at the University of Cincinnati, attended the dedication with her husband Ron Nyhan.
“In a field that is, by definition, focused on performance and its stars, only a knowledgeable, opera-loving giant on the business side of the house could command the attention of the opera field to make significant changes behind the scenes,” she said. “Jim was that giant.”
Story by CCM graduate Kevin Norton (DMA Saxophone, 2015)