- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The director of Kentucky Opera died Sunday night in a car crash in Illinois, the company said.

David Roth was traveling east on Interstate 74 in Piatt County about 9 p.m. when his Hyundai Elantra struck a ditch, became airborne and hit a tree head on, an Illinois State Police report said.

Roth, 56, was transported to Carle Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He had been returning to Louisville after taking a business trip to Iowa and visiting family in Wisconsin, opera spokeswoman Heather O’Mara said.

She said Roth, who came to the opera in 2006, balanced artistic quality and business acumen.

He was presenting performances including musical theater and new works “to expand the repertory and show people what opera can be,” she said.

He also balanced the budget consistently for the past five years and moved the opera out of a 2,400 seat theater into a more intimate 1,800 seat venue.

Roth transformed the studio artist program that brings young singers to perform with the opera by adding the opportunity to work with a living composer on a new work. The number of applicants for the program increased from three or four to about 300 last year, O’Mara said.

“Most recently, his artistic vision was to break out of traditional opera and bring opera to the people, make opera relevant to the people of America,” she said.

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