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The Napa Valley Opera House has hired the artistic director of Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland as its new executive and artistic director.

Peter Williams, who has been at Yoshi’s in Oakland since 1999, will begin working at the Opera House in mid-August, according to a press release.

“Under Peter’s leadership, Yoshi’s has become an international icon known to present the finest in multiple genres of music,” said the Opera House board chairman Bob Almeida. “Peter’s passion for the arts and depth of experience are an asset to both the Opera House itself and the community of Napa.”  

Almeida said Williams was a long-time fan who had attended a number of shows at the Opera House. “He loves the venue because of the acoustics, the intimacy and the energy,” Almeida said.

In conversation, Williams called being the Opera House’s artistic director “his dream job,” Almeida said.

Williams, a resident of Oakland, is planning to relocate to Napa. He intends to “be creative and bring in a strong line-up of shows that will appeal to the diverse population of the Napa Valley area and beyond,” he said in a statement.

“My list of ideas for shows has been growing exponentially since this process started, and I’ll be actively looking for input from the community on what they’d to see in the room,” Williams said. “I am excited to get started on the next phase of growth for the NVOH.”

Williams replaces Chris Smith who has served as interim executive/artistic director since March, when long-time artistic director Evy Warshawski resigned. 

“Chris has done an amazing job at NVOH, immediately stepping in and contributing in multiple ways, including organizing the benefit for Napa’s sister city, Iwanuma, conceiving our summer family series and bringing many exciting acts to our stage,” Almeida said. 

The Opera House hopes to continue its relationship with Smith as a presenter, he said.

“The Opera House can look to a bright future with Peter Williams at the helm,” Smith said. “The board, staff and supporters have worked very hard during this period of transition and I am tremendously proud of what we have accomplished. I look forward to working with Peter to help ensure a great start to his tenure at NVOH.”

Almeida said the Opera House board had conducted the search for a new director. “We didn’t use a consultant,” he said. 

Postings on search boards resulted in 64 applications in a month. “We cut it off there,” he said “We were being overwhelmed and the resumes were wonderful.”

Almeida said the choice of Williams does not mean the Opera House is shifting to jazz, but it is “a signal that we will be open more evenings.” Patrons, he said, will see a varied calendar of artists, including music and drama, that will appeal to residents as well as visitors.

The mission of the Opera House will remain the same, he said. “We are absolutely committed to keeping a big chunk (of the Opera House schedule) for locals. Napa High, Vintage High, Lucky Penny, IDOL NV — that’s a big part of who we are and what we do, and how we support the community that supports us.” 

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