2011 Forty Under 40 Winner: Michael Egel
Friday, March 18, 2011 7:00 AM
Age 37 | Artistic director, Des Moines Metro Opera Inc.
When he arrived at Simpson College as a freshman, Michael Egel was interested in musical theater but had no intention of getting involved with the opera program that plays such a prominent role on campus. That changed, he said, when “I realized the power of the music and saw people my age singing opera.”
Now, at the age of 37, he’s the artistic director of Indianola-based Des Moines Metro Opera Inc. – just the second person in that job since the company was formed in 1973.
His career path could have taken him elsewhere, but the Algona native chose to come back to Iowa. “I made the decision in 1999 when I was leaving grad school (at the University of Memphis),” Egel said. “I had an offer to be in administration at the Metropolitan Opera (in New York) at the entry level, and at the same time I had the opportunity to come back here and work in the position I wanted to be in.”
He filled a number of roles during the next few years, including education director, administrator of the Apprentice Artist Program and artistic administrator. He was appointed artistic director in 2010 following the retirement of Robert Larsen, co-founder of Des Moines Metro Opera.
Egel’s standing in the opera world is reflected by his activity as an adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera. “They send me all around the United States several times a year, and I always turn it into an opportunity to see places I haven’t been,” he said.
In 2008, he was elected to serve on the steering committee for Opera America’s National Singer Training Forum.
Outside of opera, Egel lists history, art, travel, cooking and personal fitness as interests, and he especially focuses on languages. “In my job, I have to understand Italian, German and French, so I spend a lot of time studying languages,” he said. “I challenge myself to read textbooks.”
Will he remain as artistic director as long as Larsen did? “Perhaps,” Egel said. “I have a passion not just for this art form, but also for bringing it to my home state.”
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