General Director of Opera San Jose Khori Dastoor speaks on the splendor of opera, her career shifts and obstacles facing the industry today.
Khori Dastoor is paving the way for other women in the industry.
As one of the only two women of color spearheading a major opera company in the U.S., Khori Dastoor is no stranger to overcoming hurdles. Once an opera singer herself, the working mother and community leader pivoted within the industry and is now the general director of Opera San Jose, where she truly does it all. Here, she shares a bit about her journey and day-to-day.
What does your average day look like? Multifaceted. So much of my day is meeting new people, connecting with artists and creatives, choosing costume fabrics, emptying trash cans, collaborating with institutional partners, planning for what’s coming around the corner—no one day ever seems to be the same as the last, filled with tasks big and small.
What are some hurdles you have had to overcome and continue to overcome? I often feel that some of [them] are self-imposed. I’ve had to push through moments when I experience a flash of ‘I shouldn’t be here’ or ‘I’m not qualified’ because I’m often coming from a different perspective. But that is exactly the sort of leadership that is called for right now—and if I can learn to value those things in myself, that is what is in the best interest of the institution.
What about opera do you love? Its timeless qualities. I love knowing that jokes can stay hilarious for 300 years. In so many ways, humanity isn’t so different today from what it was in 1685. I find that comforting. The form and power of music can connect people from all walks of life.
What prompted your transition from performing to artistic administration? For me, one grew naturally out of the other. My love of singers and opera led me to want to be more involved on the producing side of things. As a producer, you’re able to express an idea about a piece, and I couldn’t be a general director the way that I am now if I hadn’t been a singer. I think every part of my career—performer, audience member, funder—the full life cycle of the art form, prepared me to lead this institution and the folks around me.
Silicon Valley is a focal point of change, technology and entrepreneurial thinking. How does it affect opera? In a time when such thinking is integral to the long-term sustainability of the arts, patrons and supporters from Silicon Valley have been a crucial engine of innovation that our company will continue to rely on for years to come. With our Heiman Digital Media Studio, we’ve produced work that has now been watched by patrons from across the globe—never before has our reach been so broad. The pioneering spirit of Silicon Valley has fundamentally transformed the trajectory of our company for the better.
Photography by: PHOTO BY CHRIS HARDY