Priti Gandhi will become Minnesota Opera's Chief Artistic Officer. (San Diego Union Tribune) 

Minnesota Opera's new Chief Artistic Officer is an arts administrator and soprano from southern California.

Priti Gandhi will round out a Minnesota Opera creative leadership team that includes President Ryan Taylor, Chief Production Officer Karen Quisenberry and artistic director Dale Johnson, who's shifting into a creative advisory role next season.

Her newly created position will "evolve organically," Gandhi predicted. "Artistic programming and casting will become more of a collaborative team effort." 

Gandhi currently works for San Diego Opera, where she started her singing career 22 years ago. She sang internationally for many years before returning to the company in 2013 for a full-time administrative role. As the company's artistic administrator, her responsibilities include casting, contracts and artistic budgeting.

And she still sings on the side, mostly with San Diego chamber music groups.

"I'm singing a recital this weekend for Mother's Day," she said.

Working for Minnesota Opera appealed, in part, because of its New Works Initiative -- a program "known far and wide," Gandhi said, for commissioning new operas.

But there was an additional reason for Gandhi's interest. "When I applied for the job, I didn’t realize there was a diversity charter," she said, a nod to the company's official stance on nondiscrimination and inclusion. "That’s an incredibly exciting mission for an opera company."

Gandhi took a nontraditional path to her opera career. The Mumbai native never attended a conservatory, she noted. Rather, she studied communications and theater at University of California, San Diego, taking private voice lessons on the side. 

"I started studying opera rather late," she said, "when I was 20 years old."  

She comes from a "traditional Indian family," she continued, and never listened to opera growing up. An attentive instructor changed all that. "After a couple months, my voice teacher said, 'You have an operatic voice; you should sing opera.'"

Gandhi starts her new job July 2.