Director of Archives
New York City Opera Company
Today Susan’s title is Director of Archives for New York City Opera Company. Previously, she was Publicity and Public Relations Director, which led to her current position.
Susan Woelzl is a New Jersey native, and has a BA in Literature, and a MA in American History, from Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Madison, New Jersey. The graduate degree today would be referred to as American Studies, as it included courses in the psychology and the literature of the period, which aids the student in understanding the thought process of the generation being studied.
Being an intern at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey as a young person, created a major interest in theater for Susan. She enjoyed working with actors and production people, and watching the performances being created and developed.
After completing her education, Susan took a job as Press Assistant at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the parent organization overseeing the welfare of the constituents of the complex. In 1974 she had the opportunity to meet Beverly Sills at a Lincoln Center event, who asked Susan about her job and what she’d like to do in the future. When Susan mentioned that she would like to work for a performance producing company, Miss Sills nodded. Several weeks later, Ms. Woelzl said, “Beverly called and said she’d recommended me for a job at City Opera and that I should give them a call.” Susan was given the job of company assistant and began working in every department, filling in where help was needed. She was exposed to artistic, production, costumes and makeup, rehearsal, executive and press. “It was a tremendously valuable experience, adding in many ways to my knowledge of how a performing arts organization works,” she said. In 1976 she joined the press and public relations department, became the director several years later and remained there until last year (2007).
Like most jobs, there is a lot more to press and public relations than meets the eye. Meeting with the performers, finding out their interests and their backgrounds and their abilities, helps tremendously in setting up the proper interviews. Sitting down with performers and helping them go forward after a bad review is also a very important part. In addition, the department is in charge of program books, photography, getting the press to performances, and providing background information to the press.
Susan describes the keys to success as patience, enthusiasm, and listening. All help tremendously in moving the company in the right direction with the press.
A major plus of this career is having the opportunity to work with many interesting and talented people, and to travelling around the world with the company.
Today, Susan is creating an archive for City Opera, searching through old press clippings and photography, talking with singers who have memorabilia, and putting together a presentation that will be put on the website, including all performances including casting. Susan is perfect for the job of archivist because of her company knowledge and her college history training in studying how and why things worked or didn’t work. The current leadership values her knowledge. “People are always coming into my office with questions and repeating ‘You are the only person who can answer this!'”
Susan thinks that studying history has been important for her because one learns to study the mistakes of the past to help prevent repeating them. “What happened the last time? How did we get out of it? People who don’t study and learn from the past are liable to make the same mistakes over and over.”
In her spare time Susan loves to horseback ride out in the country, and is a contributing editor to “Bark” Magazine.
A favorite book is: