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Rogue Opera board president and two of its directors resign

Rogue Opera's executive director, its artistic director and the president of its board of directors have resigned, following what a member of the opera's board said were personality conflicts and differences over management style.

Lorrie Hall of Medford, the group's volunteer executive director, and Willene Gunn of Talent, the group's artistic and stage director and producer, resigned their positions effective immediately at a special meeting, Hall said.

"We made the decision at a board meeting Sunday in Ashland," she said Tuesday.

Board President Fredna Grimland of Medford resigned the presidency but will remain on the board. The opera announced in a Tuesday press release that she has been replaced as president by her husband, Tom Grimland.

Hall and Gunn cited "irreconcilable differences" with some members of the opera's board of directors. They declined to spell out the differences or to name the board members.

"We worked together starting in 2001 bringing Rogue Opera to where it is now," Hall said. "I have left, as has the best artistic director I could ever have had. I think that will speak volumes."

Tom Grimland said there was a clash of personalities between Hall and the board.

"It's complicated, he said. "Ultimately the board did not go along with her on some things, so she quit. It's more of a management-style issue than artistic choices."

Hall said the differences that led to the resignations have nothing to do with money, or with the opera group's financial health.

"It's in great shape," she said. "That's the sad thing."

Rogue Opera was founded by Ray Tumbleson in 1977. In addition to presenting operas such as Mozart's "The Magic Flute," Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and 19th-century German composer Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," it reaches an estimated 20,000 students every year with an Opera in the Schools program. It mentors high school and college students through singer training and workshop programs in collaboration with Southern Oregon University.

Hall said she didn't want to publicly criticize board members.

"I wholeheartedly support Rogue Opera's mission of presenting high quality opera to regional audiences, training young performers, and the education and enrichment of our youth and community," Hall said in a prepared statement. "It saddens me to leave."

Tom Grimland likewise had nothing but praise for Hall.

"She has been incredible," he said. "This organization would have folded if not for her. She and Willene were a dynamo."

Hall worked with the dance group for eight years. During that time the opera rose from a small company with one half-time employee and a budget of less than $80,000 to a regional opera company with four employees and a budget of more than $400,000.

Gunn joined the company in 2006 after a 30-year career as director of the opera programs at the San Francisco Conservatory in California. After she retired and moved to Talent, Gunn became Rogue Opera's artistic director, staging shows for the main stage, schools, opera workshops and Green Shows for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In her statement, she cited "concern about the leadership of the board."

This year's Opera in the Schools Program, "OperAntics!" is a 45-minute production to be performed for students three days a week in October, November, January, February and March. It's described as a whirlwind of opera scenes from "Carmen," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Mikado," "The Marriage of Figaro" and other operas.

The opera's administrative offices are in the old Woolworth Building in downtown Medford. It has more than a dozen singers under contract as well as two full-time and two part-time employees.

Reach Bill Varble at 776-4478 or bvarble@mailtribune.com.