LA Opera Announces Appointment of Keith Leonard as New Board Chair; Marc Stern to Remain on Board as Honorary Chair

Company prepares for September opening of first full-staged opera season since Covid closures

(Los Angeles) June 22, 2021 — The LA Opera Board of Directors has elected Keith Leonard as the new chair. Leonard, a board member since 2015, has served as the chair of the executive committee and vice chair of the campaign committee for the past year, where he worked closely with both board and staff leadership.

After 30 years of total board service to date, and 20 years as chair, Marc Stern announced to the board in March that he would be stepping down after having presided over more than 100 full board meetings. The nominating committee recommended that the board consider Leonard as his replacement—and his appointment was unanimously confirmed at today’s annual meeting by the full board.

“While working alongside Keith, it quickly became clear to me that he would make an outstanding chair and the board agreed,” said Stern. “He has the necessary business and management experience along with a deep commitment and keen love for the opera, which makes him the perfect person to lead LA Opera as it reopens its doors to live performances at full capacity in September.

“I truly believe that LA Opera is one of the most outstanding artistic organizations operating in America today. It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve as chair of this remarkable board and support these incredible artists and staff members. Now I’m looking forward to stepping back and supporting Keith, and watching as LA Opera continues to thrive and grow.”

In recognition of his tenure and outstanding service and to describe his ongoing role on the board, the board has named Stern to the newly created position of honorary chair. Throughout his tenure as chair, Stern provided extraordinary leadership, especially during financial and operational challenges such as the recession of 2008 and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. As honorary chair, Stern will remain an active voting member of all committees and will be closely engaged in decisions regarding company health, strategy and direction, as well as the cultivation of major gifts.

Stern and his wife Eva are the largest donors in accumulative gifts to The Music Center and its resident companies after the Disney family. Beyond The Music Center and its affiliates, the Sterns are deeply committed to numerous Los Angeles-area arts organizations including the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, the Colburn School, The Broad Stage, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).  Beyond Los Angeles, the Sterns are also supporters of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival, among others. At LA Opera, their transformational giving has championed more than 15 ambitious projects including the Ring cycle, productions of Roméo et Juliette, Il Trittico, Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci and the DVD releases of La Traviata (with Renée Fleming) and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (starring Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone).

Their most recent gift came in March when the company announced the creation of the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award, providing significant support to individuals who have helped advance the operatic art form through the dedication of their extraordinary talents to LA Opera. The award also serves as an honorific for artists with a strong connection to Los Angeles, thereby strengthening the company’s connection with outstanding talent.

The LA Opera Board of Directors also confirmed Carol Henry, a founding board member and board president from 2005 to 2012, to replace Leonard as chairman of the executive committee, a position she has held previously.

An executive in the biotechnology industry, Leonard’s lifelong passion for music and opera started when he was introduced to opera as a child by his father. After working several years in Europe with the Navy and later for Amgen, his passion for the art form deepened, and when he returned to Southern California in 2005 he became a patron and supporter of LA Opera. For more than a decade, Leonard and his wife Nanette have generously contributed to the company—starting with their gift to support the 2010 production of the Ring cycle—and most recently as co-underwriters for an upcoming new production of The Marriage of Figaro. In addition to their involvement at LA Opera and support of performing arts, Keith and Nanette have provided significant leadership and financial support to philanthropies focused on healthcare delivery in the U.S. and abroad, veteran’s care, urban poverty, education and the environment. They have lived and worked in Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.

“I am incredibly honored to be elected to serve as chair of the LA Opera Board of Directors, to work alongside this exceptionally gifted and dedicated group of directors and build upon the tremendous foundation of Marc Stern’s exemplary years of leadership,” said Leonard. “I deeply believe in opera’s unique ability to bring artists and our community together through a shared musical and theatrical experience that moves and transforms us. LA Opera is one of our country’s leading arts institutions, and I have been inspired by the visionary leadership of Christopher Koelsch and his plans for the future of the company. I look forward to partnering with him in LA Opera’s mission to expand the reach of the much-needed restorative powers of this art form in our city—and beyond.

The change comes after LA Opera became the first performing arts organization in the city to return indoors to the theater with a performance of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, and as the company prepares to open its 2021/22 season at full capacity and staging with Il Trovatore in September. Addressing the transition, LA Opera President and CEO Christopher Koelsch said: “While running a nonprofit opera company is always a challenge, under Marc’s outstanding and committed leadership we have built up our financial reserves, deepened community support and developed our board to a point where transitions like this are relatively seamless. We look forward to celebrating Marc and his incomparable legacy in grand style when we can reconvene in person. We are thrilled that Marc will remain active on the board and feel beyond lucky to welcome Keith as our new chair. We look forward to continuing to work with them both.”


Keith Leonard has 30 years of experience in the biotechnology industry as both an investor and operating executive. He is the chairman of the board and former CEO of Unity Biotechnology, Inc. He was co-founder and chief executive officer of KYTHERA Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., from its inception until its sale to Allergan, Plc. Leonard began his career in biotech, spending 13 years working across numerous areas at Amgen Inc., ultimately as general manager of Amgen’s operations in 28 countries across Europe, based in Lucerne, Switzerland. 

An active investor, Leonard serves on the boards of Intuitive Surgical, Inc., in Sunnyvale, California, and Sanifit Therapeutics S.A. in Mallorca, Spain, and the Executive Committee of UCLA Ventures. In addition, he has served as a board member of several other public and private biotech companies in the U.S. and Europe. He was an active-duty officer in the U.S. Navy and received a B.S. in Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles; a B.A. in History from the University of Maryland; an M.S. in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley; and an M.B.A. from the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Marc Stern is chairman of The TCW Group, Inc., a Los Angeles-based asset management firm with approximately $250 billion of assets under management. Since 1990, Stern has held a number of senior management positions at TCW including CEO, president and vice chairman. He also held a variety of senior positions at Société Générale Group, one of the largest financial institutions in Europe, which owned TCW from 2001 to 2013. Prior to joining TCW in 1990, Stern was president and a director of SunAmerica and prior to that, was a senior executive with the Henley Group and its predecessor companies. Stern began his career in 1970 as an attorney with the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton.

Stern serves on numerous nonprofit boards including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Metropolitan Opera in New York, Music Center of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Committee and California Institute of Technology. Stern is also a minority owner of both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Stern was formerly a director of Qualcomm, Inc., a vice-chair of The Salk Institute, and was founding chairman of both the Mayor’s Fund Los Angeles and of the President’s Council of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He holds a BA from Dickinson College, an MA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Public Law and Government and a JD from the Columbia University School of Law.

Marc Stern and his wife Eva live in Malibu, California, and have two children and six grandchildren.


Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be, with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, given the extraordinary challenges of the time. As LA Opera awaits its cue to return to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, the company is offering a multitude of content including live recitals, opera broadcasts and learning opportunities via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which have accumulated more than 920,000 views since launching last spring. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period through the LA Opera Relief Fund. Those wanting to support LA Opera can visit


Vanessa Flores Waite
Director of Communications 

LA Opera is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.