Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit Tuesday announced it has elected Ethan Davidson as chairman of its board of directors and trustees. He succeeds Rick Williams, who stepped down after serving as chairman for the past 17 years. The transition will include a restructuring of the board and will take effect at the upcoming annual meeting on Nov. 14.
Davidson is chairman of the grants committee of the William Davidson Foundation, a private family foundation in Birmingham dedicated to advancing the economic, cultural, and civic vitality of southeast Michigan, Israel, and the Jewish community. Davidson also is a director of the Motown Museum and serves on other boards in the area.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in English literature at the University of Michigan, Davidson did some graduate work in Middle Eastern history and Islamic law. He also has studied Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
As a professional singer and songwriter, Davidson recorded 10 albums and has toured throughout North America and Europe. In college, he often attended opera with David DiChiera, the late founder of Michigan Opera Theatre.
“This will be a serious challenge and a real opportunity. That’s why I took this role,” Davidson says. “I get excited when I think about all of the compelling new productions which will grace our stage and other communal spaces, the wider dialogues in which we will participate as we bring our artistic voice to issues of communal concern, and the new friends we hope will fill Detroit’s beautiful opera house. We can never rest on our laurels. We have work to do, but we’re starting from a very good place, and I’m excited to be part of the team.”
Williams is a consistent donor to Michigan Opera Theatre. He led the organization through the 2008 recession by negotiating with the company’s consortium of debtors to forgive $7 million of debt in return for paying $11 million in cash within six months. He then provided a personal leadership gift and influenced other Michigan Opera Theatre supporters to join him.
In 2018, he was one of four people nationwide to receive Opera America’s National Opera Trustee Award, which recognizes outstanding trustees of U.S. opera companies for leadership, generosity, and audience building efforts.
Robert Dewar and Lynn Townsend were the only other chairmen before Williams in the organization’s nearly 50-year history.
“Serving as chairman of Michigan Opera Theatre has been an exciting and fulfilling opportunity, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” Williams says. “Surmounting our financial issues during the recession and developing plans for the future have been extremely gratifying, but it’s time to let somebody else take the reins. We couldn’t have come up with a better candidate than Ethan. I’m thrilled that he’s agreed to accept the position.”
Williams will be honored during the organization’s season-opening gala concert on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Michigan Opera Theatre’s governance committee voted to restructure the board of directors. There will now be three vice chairs, a treasurer, and a secretary.
New officers include JoAnn Danto, vice chair and former dance professor and soloist with the Joffrey Ballet, the National Ballet, and other ballet companies throughout the U.S. and Europe; Peter Oleksiak, vice chair and senior vice president and CFO at DTE Energy; Ankur Rungta, vice chair and CEO of C3 Industries; Enrico Digirolamo, treasurer and board member of II-VI Inc., board member of Garsite Progress, chairman of Good Travel Software, and former CFO of Covisint; and Gene P. Bowen, secretary and co-chairperson of the business practice group at Bodman PLC.
Michigan Opera Theatre will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.