Brendan Cooke: General Director of OperaDelaware in Wilmington
What’s Cooke-ing at the Opera
Brendan Cooke jokes that he has two new children. “One is my second son, who was born in June, and he is priceless,” Cooke says. “The other is 67 years old and has a million-dollar budget.” In June Cooke, 37, was named general director of Opera-Delaware, taking over for Leland Kimball, who for the past 30 years shepherded the company through great growth, as well as hard times that crushed other groups. In his new position, Cooke is responsible for, among other things, increasing ticket sales and growing audiences—and though “the first thing I have to do is go to school,” Cooke says, he has the right experience. “He is energetic, innovative, and passionate about opera,” says OperaDelaware president Tony Winchester. “He believes that opera holds the power to capture the imagination and delight every person, from the most ardent rock fan to the most particular connoisseur of the classics.” Cooke is one of those rock fans. “I was supposed to be a famous guitarist,” he laughs, “but something went horribly, horribly wrong.” He discovered opera during his second year at Loyola University in New Orleans and “was blown away by the confluence of art forms. I was hooked.” He earned a bachelor’s in music education, then went on to earn a master’s in music from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He sang professionally for several years while working in arts administration, then, three years ago, founded the Baltimore Concert Opera, just as the Baltimore Opera Company was on the verge of collapse. He leaves Baltimore Concert Opera as an enterprise that can now sustain itself. OperaDelaware, he says, was the logical next step.