The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts has filled its chief executive slot with an opera and orchestra administrator from Salt Lake City.

Anne Ewers, president and CEO of the Utah Symphony and Opera, will begin a three-year contract as Kimmel president and chief executive officer starting July 9, a year after Janice C. Price announced her resignation.

Ewers, 55, said yesterday that it was too early to discuss specific ideas for the Kimmel - she has not yet heard a concert in Verizon Hall or the Perelman Theater - but that she was expecting to spend a lot of time raising money, a part of the job she particularly relished, and that she looked forward to moving back East.

"I think one of the things to do is to really sit down with the board and the staff, and work together to determine our direction. I have some ideas and approaches, and I want to make sure we're all working side by side," she said. "I really love working with boards; it's one of the most satisfying and exciting things. It's important for the board to be engaged as part of the process."

The Kimmel, which has faced a string of deficits since its December 2001 opening, is operating under the burden of almost $30 million in debt left over from its construction phrase. Board leaders, with the help of Gov. Rendell, have been trying to raise a total of $100 million for some combination of debt reduction and endowment.

"Anne Ewers has an indefatigable spirit and enormous energy," said William P. Hankowsky, chairman of the Kimmel. "She is also an accomplished artistic director who has spent her entire career in the performing arts. She is an excellent fund-raiser and a skillful administrator who knows what it takes to put great art on the stage."

Ewers said that half of each day's work at her current post is spent on fund-raising. What does she love so much about asking for money, a part of the job some abhor?

"It is just the ability to go in and know that someone is not really wild about supporting the arts, and watching the transformation occur and seeing them get excited," she said.

Ewers, who grew up in Ottawa, Ill., has been in Utah for 16 years, and from 1991 to 2002 was general director of Utah Opera. She oversaw the merger of that company with the Utah Symphony in 2002, becoming chief executive officer of the combined organization. In 2005, on the recommendation of an outside consultant, she relinquished control of day-to-day operations of the opera troupe.

In addition to overseeing the merger - an option that leaders of the Kimmel and its biggest tenant, the Philadelphia Orchestra, have also discussed - Ewers has conducted two capital campaigns, launched a summer music festival, and helped organize a European tour and recordings. She recently began the Utah Symphony's search for a conductor to replace Keith Lockhart.

Prior to joining Utah Opera, Ewers was general director of the Boston Lyric Opera from 1984 to 1989, and from 1979 to 1981 was assistant stage director at the San Francisco Opera.

Most of her career has been in opera, recently directing Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petite Bourgeoisie and Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire in Utah. She directed La Gioconda at San Francisco Opera in 1988-89, and 60 other productions elsewhere.

Why is she expanding her scope now?

"The ability to impact a region such as Philadelphia, and, frankly, to impact the industry with an organization that is fresh and new - that is extremely appealing," she said.

Contact culture writer Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com.