Kern Wildenthal General Director & CEO

Keith Cerny

Keith joined The Dallas Opera in 2010 as General Director & CEO and “set out to transform [this] dowager duchess [of a company] into a blooming, energetic youth” (Classical Voice America). In his time at Dallas, Keith has worked with the Dallas Opera’s Board of Directors and opera staff to stabilize the company’s finances and significantly grow the endowment, leading to three consecutive balanced operating results – the first time TDO has achieved this result in 15 years. He has also recruited an accomplished new Music Director with an international reputation, Emmanuel Villaume; hired Principal Guest Conductor, Nicole Paiement and Guest Concertmaster and Guest Conductor Peter Manning; significantly broadened the company’s programming strategy and commissioned three world premieres; launched the company’s free public simulcast series, which has reached over 63,000 patrons in North Texas, the U.S. and the U.K.; expanded the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition from a regional competition to a national one with finals with orchestra; and forged new artistic collaborations with the Dallas Theater Center, the Dallas Children’s Theater, University of North Texas, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Dallas Holocaust museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art. He also conceived and launched the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors, which held its inaugural program in late 2015. In 2011, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Opera America, where he also serves as Chair of the Strategy Committee.

From a programming point of view, Keith has emphasized new productions, especially those involving the use of projections and computer technologies; commissions, late 20th and 21st century works; and less-familiar works, all in conjunction with popular classics. Under his tenure, The Dallas Opera has presented new productions of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta with projections by Elaine J. McCarthy, and a production of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt using projections, as well as the contemporary operas Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse and Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers. In 2015, the company presented three world premieres that Keith commissioned: Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s Everest, Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Great Scott, and Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus.

Prior to assuming the position in Dallas, Keith pursued a broad career as a businessman, technologist, and musician. He developed his early interest in classical music and opera by singing with the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the California Bach Society, and performed extensively as a solo pianist and chamber music player in his teens. He subsequently studied Music and Physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

After graduating with highest honors in both degrees, he won a Fulbright Scholarship to London. There he studied at the English National Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and performed and coached regularly for four years. Following his return from London, he worked for two years for the accounting firm Touche Ross & Co. in San Francisco before attending Harvard Business School. While living in Boston, Keith also accompanied voice students in the studio in the Chair of the Voice department at New England Conservatory.

After graduating with honors from HBS, Keith spent nearly 15 years in management consulting, working first for McKinsey & Co. in London and Atlanta, and then as a telecom and high tech Partner with Accenture in San Francisco. During this period, Keith also completed a Ph.D. in Econometrics and Economic Development Policy from the Open University in the U.K. As a consultant, he worked on numerous pro bono projects for opera companies in parallel with his paid consulting work, including the San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and Spoleto Festival USA. He was hired by the Board of the San Francisco Opera in 2004 as the Executive Director (COO) and CFO. During his tenure at SF Opera, the company achieved three years of balanced operating results, following an institution-threatening downturn prior to his arrival. He then worked for Russell Reynolds in San Francisco, recruiting CEOs and senior executives for non-profits, before taking over as CEO of – the largest online retailer of sheet music. He left in 2010 to become General Director & CEO of The Dallas Opera. He lives in Highland Park, Texas, with his wife Jennifer, their four children, and assorted pets.