The ROH is still seeking an artistic director to work alongside Kaiser. Several prominent figures in both the UK and US have been approached for the job. Recent speculation centred on Sarah Billinghurst, second in command at New York's Metropolitan Opera. She is reported to have turned down the offer because she was not willing to share control with an executive director.
Previously, the duties of artistic and executive director were encompassed in the single role of chief executive. But that role proved too much of a hot seat for recent holders. In the past two years, three chief executives - Jeremy Isaacs, Genista McIntosh and Mary Allen - have come and gone. The post is now temporarily held by Pelham Allen, seconded from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The decision to devolve the chief executive duties into two positions is part of the radical rescue plan announced by ROH chairman Sir Colin Southgate last week. The plan, aimed at reducing the ROH's £13m deficit, also includes an 11-month closure of the Opera from January 1999 and various staff redundancies. Management is now in negotiation with unions to agree new flexible working contracts.
Commenting on the appointment of Kaiser, who is credited with turning around the financial fortunes of the American Ballet Theatre, Southgate said: 'Michael joins us in the full knowledge of our current union negotiations and the uncertain future of the Royal Opera House.'