03/03/2016 17:59 EST | Updated 03/04/2017 00:12 EST

Vancouver Opera appoints new director for transition to festival format

Many people simply don't have time or the energy to rush off to an evening at the opera anymore — which is one reason why Vancouver Opera's switch to a festival format next year is necessary, says the company's newly appointed general director.

Kim Gaynor, who ran an international classical musical festival in Switzerland for the past decade, says Vancouver Opera's decision to move from a full nine-month season to a three-week festival beginning Spring 2017 was "a really courageous decision."

"Traditional audiences for opera in a season format — which is the traditional format all over North America — are declining," Gaynor told host Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

'People's lives are so busy'

"That's not because opera doesn't have anything to say to a contemporary audience. I think it really has a lot to do with the format and the way people's lives are so busy these days.

"The idea of rushing home from work to get changed to go to the opera and concentrate on a performance, in a way that gives you a good experience, is more and more difficult these days, and there's a lot of competition for people's time."

Gaynor will take the position on July 1, 2016, replacing James Wright who is retiring after 17 years in the position.

Gaynor, who originally hails from Ontario, has more than 30 years of experience in senior administrative positions with cultural and performing arts institutions and festivals in Canada, the U.K., and Europe.

For the past 10 years she worked as the managing director of the Verbier Festival, a popular international festival in Switzerland which offers 65 classical concerts over 17 days, as well as a range of educational activities.

She said she will bring her experience managing a festival to the Vancouver Opera.

"By creating a festival, you can create this kind of immersive experience that people will get involved in, in a really different way at an emotional level," she said.

Bramwell Tovey critical of move

In June 2015, when the company announced they would move toward a festival format, Vancouver Symphony's music director Bramwell Tovey criticized the decision.

"To abandon the opera season is something that I don't think is very good for the city's reputation," Tovey said in an interview on On the Coast on June 18, 2015.

When asked how she would reassure Vancouver Opera's traditional audiences, who may not be receptive to the change, Gaynor replied: "The first thing I would say to them is give us a chance. Come if you're skeptical, ask your questions, challenge us, make sure that we fulfil what you need to have in an opera experience, and we think we'll give you something which you're going to enjoy."

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver Opera's newly appointed general director to help transition company into festival format