Remembrance by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved

David Roth had been the General Director of Kentucky Opera since 2006.  He moved to Louisville from Texas where he was the Finance Director of Fort Worth Opera.  He was found dead in his car Sunday night just outside Champaign, Illinois. The cause of his death has yet to be determined.

While visiting the Kentucky Opera offices one afternoon in 2006 to talk with the Kentucky Opera Guild liaison about an upcoming fundraiser, I was introduced to the new General Manager, David Roth, who had been hired after Deborah Sandler had retired. Having worked with Deborah for a number of years, off and on stage, I was interested in seeing what direction David would be taking the company. In that first meeting, with David’s gentle and fetching smile and firm handshake, I could tell he was up for the challenge of “running the show.”

One afternoon he asked if we could have coffee. I happily obliged and grew even fonder of him, learning about his upbringing (his early ambition to be a farmer), his financial background (he held a degree in Finance), and his passion for restaurants and fine wines. We laughed and shared that afternoon, hugs were given and as he departed he said, “I’ll see you on stage, Operadarling.”

I call myself fortunate that I was able to get to know David on a personal and professional level. Working with him in the theater you could see how enthralled he was with every production, putting his artistic thought into it while allowing for producers and directors to fully express themselves. He brought innovative ideas to the community, showing that Opera is not a stuffy, upper-class form of entertainment, but quite the opposite: Opera is for everyone. Through careful programming and staffing, David and his Kentucky Opera board were able to bring the company into the black. In a time where the Arts flutter back and forth with uncertain funding, that is a huge accomplishment.

As important as Opera was to David, he was also heavily involved in other art forms as well, including Visual Arts. David and his partner Bryce Hudson, a talented and world-renowned artist in his own right, have quite a collection of artwork in their beautiful Highlands home. David would also volunteer his time and talents to outreach programs and initiatives that increased the community’s awareness of the arts in Louisville, not just the Opera.

In all the years of knowing David, one memory sticks out the most in my mind. In 2009, the Louisville Orchestra, in tandem with the Kentucky Opera and others in the community, performed a concert production of Iolanta, and I was in the chorus. In rehearsal one night, much to my surprise, we were assigned sectionals that I found myself sitting behind David. I was doing my best to not miss a single note, rest or dynamic. At the end of the night, as we are about to leave, David gave me a hug and said, “You sounded particularly lovely tonight — great job, Operadarling.”

So, my dear friend and colleague, Louisville and everyone who has known you is going to miss your wide smile and endearing laugh, but also the impact that you’ve made in and around the nation’s Arts community. May you rest well in the Great Halls of Valhalla.


Annette Skaggs[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]