Multi-talented arts producer and manager Sandra Willis has been appointed as the new Executive Director of Opera Queensland and will relocate from Melbourne to Brisbane to commence on 24 July 2017.
Ms Willis’ impressive 18-year career includes roles as Executive Producer, Touring and Outreach at Opera Australia and General Manager of Oz Opera at Opera Australia, Company Manager at Bell Shakespeare, and Company Manager at Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical. After graduating from NIDA, Sandra freelanced in stage management, event management, production management & coordination for many of Australia's arts companies.
As Executive Producer and General Manager at Opera Australia, Ms Willis managed a budget of $5 million, bringing 2,000 performances and events to more than half a million patrons across every Australian state and territory.
She secured almost $10 million in government, private and philanthropic funding, saved up to $250,000 in operational costs, cultivated touring networks in North America, Europe and Asia, conceived and established a number of new community engagement programs, and managed a successful rebrand from Oz Opera to Opera Australia. Ms Willis was also the Executive Producer for Opera Australia’s 2015 and 2016 multi award-winning productionThe Rabbits, composed by Kate Miller-Heidke.
She is a Board Director at Arena Theatre Company, a trustee of the Opera Australia Benevolent Fund, and has advised the Australian Government on regional and touring arts programs as part of an expert panel.
Ms Willis leaves a position as Senior Adviser for Philanthropy at RMIT University, where she has been a key player in leading a major fundraising campaign, and developed significant new streams of funding in the School of Media and Communications.
OperaQ Chair, Dr Sally Pitkin said the Board was delighted to announce the appointment of Ms Willis. "Sandra’s achievements during her six years at Opera Australia, and her combination of management, production and philanthropy experience at some of Australia’s most prestigious cultural institutions, make her a sought-after arts leader.”
Incoming OperaQ Artistic Director, Patrick Nolan said the appointment was great news for Brisbane and Opera Queensland. “Sandra's exceptional work as the producer on the highly praised and awarded The Rabbits, is one of a long list of credits that ensures the business of OperaQ is in very good hands. I can't wait to start working with her.”
The appointment follows OperaQ’s announcement in April 2017 that General Manager Russell Mitchell would step down from his role after more than five years with the company.