John Peter Jeffries, left joined Italian Ambassador Andrea Meloni and his wife, Paola Meloni, at the Italian Garden Party on July 10.

John Peter Jeffries, left joined Italian Ambassador Andrea Meloni and his wife, Paola Meloni, at the Italian Garden Party on July 10.

After a turbulent year in 2011 that saw show cancellations due to financial difficulties, the appointment of a new general director has brought an air of optimism back to Ottawa’s largest opera company..

Opera Lyra is looking to put a period of setbacks behind it with introduction of John Peter Jeffries to the company.

“John Peter Jeffries was chosen after an extensive, international search,” said Malcolm McCulloch, chairman of the opera’s board of directors, in a release. “Mr. Jeffries has over 30 years experience in the opera business and is eminently qualified for the position. He has managed three American opera companies of similar size to Opera Lyra and before that, worked for the Canadian Opera Company as director of production operations.”

The Opera Lyra board, McCulloch added, is extremely pleased to welcome Jeffries to the organization.

Jeffries started in the business as a carpenter for an opera show and one night decided to attend a performance. From there, he said, he was hooked.

“It was the power of an unaided voice,” Jeffries said.

Now, the new general director is looking forward to sharing his love of opera with the city.

“It truly is a full-bodied experience,” Jeffries said. “It is a show that uses a combination of all the arts.”

With over 20 years in the business, Jeffries worked his way up in the theatre world, starting as a carpenter, then a stage hand and not long after, he got into management. He said his knowledge will definitely help the company run smoothly.

“I certainly understand all the things that happen on the stage, that will help when it comes to building a budget,” Jeffries said.

He said the company will produce popular works to remind people the beauty in an opera.

Jeffries admitted there were some works he still finds emotional.

“I get a little sniffly at La Bohème , even after all these years,” Jeffries said. “But all the works tend to tear at the emotions; it tends to deal with grand passions and extravagant gestures.”

Thrilled to be given the opportunity, Jeffries said the company is on the rebound.

“I don’t look at this job as saving the company, but don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of work to do,” Jeffries said, adding he is looking forward to the challenge.

“I am eager to collaborate with the board and staff to complete the formulation of a new vision for the future, to lead the company into a new era of financial stability and to build upon its already considerable artistic legacy.”

Opera Lyra Ottawa’s artistic director Tyrone Paterson was pleased to hear Jeffries was joining the team.

“We have been colleagues for many years and he possesses a thorough knowledge of the opera business,” Paterson said. “I am sure he will make a very positive impact.”

Opera Lyra will launch their 28th season with Puccini’s La Bohème at the National Arts Centre on Sept. 8.