Artistic Director and Chief Creative Officer
An exciting new era beckons for LA’s oldest opera company. Long Beach Opera announces the appointment of James Darrah as its new Artistic Director and Chief Creative Officer. His tenure will begin immediately, and he will remain with the company until at least 2024.
The 36-year-old Los Angeles-based director, designer, and filmmaker is one of the country's most sought-after opera directors, known for harnessing “the peculiar magic that can be conjured at the intersection of theater, opera and film" (The Los Angeles Times). This past year has seen Darrah forge ahead with a cinematic vision that has successfully shaped companies' responses to COVID-19 across the country, including two widely-hailed films for the new digital channels of Opera Philadelphia and Boston Lyric Opera. He also continues as the Creative Director of Digital Content for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, crafting their trailblazing Close Quarters episodic series. He now brings his bold ideas to the vital future of Long Beach Opera.
Mr. Darrah was already slated to make his Long Beach Opera directorial debut as part of LBO’s current Season of Solidarity with Philip Glass’ Les enfants terribles. Darrah will re-conceive his original highly-choreographed production (first seen at the ONE Festival in 2019) for a new drive-in experience. The adaptation will enable the live performance to take place safely around patrons' own vehicles in a unique, immersive cinematheque on the roof of a parking garage. Performances are scheduled for May 21-23, 2021.
LBO’s Board of Directors and Executive Director/CEO Jennifer Rivera selected Darrah to fill this role after a long and extensive search. Rivera states: ”James possesses a talent and expertise for combining beautiful, powerful aesthetics with a true musical sensitivity that is, in my opinion, currently unmatched in the opera industry. But in addition to his talent as a director and designer, he has demonstrated that he is also truly a creative visionary with the ability to understand the ways in which opera can remain relevant for a 21st century audience. His commitment to cultural inclusion in all his projects and his leadership in creating bold digital content for opera audiences makes him the ideal candidate to catapult LBO into its next artistic chapter.”
James Darrah will be only the third Artistic Director to serve in Long Beach Opera’s 41 year history, including founder Michael Milenski followed by Andreas Mitisek. In addition to the work of artistic planning through curation of repertoire, projects, seasons and artists as Artistic Director, in the newly created role of Chief Creative Officer, Mr. Darrah will helm the creative direction of the company’s internal operations, collaborating with Rivera on leading the company’s branding, marketing, development, and communications.
Darrah says, “The future of opera is both cinematic and live. I’m excited to continue my exploration of operatic cinema with the amazing team at Long Beach Opera, creating diverse, robust streaming content while also building towards a safe return to live performances. These unprecedented times call for unprecedented action, and the team at LBO is ready to innovate, evolve, and explore new territory for the operatic form. In that pursuit, LBO and myself are deeply committed to bringing together as many fresh voices and collaborators as possible. I’m also excited to have some extended time at home in the Los Angeles area in order to spearhead a new artistic chapter in Long Beach, a city that has shown itself unafraid to make bold choices that meet this unique moment.”
“The opera industry has been given a shot of espresso in the form of director and designer James Darrah. Fueled by his love of the art form’s ability to touch each of the senses, the 36-year-old Los Angeles-based artist wants audiences to see opera through the cinematic eyes of Hollywood by using film language and daring concepts of experience. He hopes these initiatives will invite new and diverse audiences, while also bringing into the fold collaborators who have been historically marginalized in the industry.” WNET’s ALL ARTS, December 2020
Darrah inside his Digital Studio at Wilhardt & Naud in LA
James Darrah’s current projects continue to merge cinema and opera. Amid pandemic-related cancelations, Darrah has generated a wide range of new digital content and operatic film adaptations. He is the new Creative Director of Digital Content for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, directing new episodic short films in a visual orchestral series called Close Quarters. This fall he also devises and directs two genre-breaking projects with Boston Lyric Opera: a new fully animated feature-length film of Philip Glass’ Edgar Allan Poe opera The Fall of the House of Usher and the world premiere of desert in, an original eight-part operatic television series with Darrah as director and co-creator with composer Ellen Reid and screenwriter christopher oscar peña.
With Opera Philadelphia, he is producer and screenwriter for a new film adaptation of Soldier Songs by David T. Little, and is in post-production writing and directing his new film of Poulenc’s La voix humaine, starring the soprano Patricia Racette, set for release in Fall 2021. He has released two new music videos for LA Opera’s Digital Shorts series with composers Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid and has his Long Beach Opera debut in 2021 with Philip Glass’ Les enfants terribles. He is currently also preparing to direct the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by Academy Award-winning composer John Corigliano at Santa Fe Opera, and will make his Chicago Lyric Opera debut directing Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up.
Darrah will remain the Artistic Director of Opera Omaha's annual ONE Festival through 2022, "expanding the boundaries of the operatic form" (The Wall Street Journal) by framing opera in a context that is both inclusive and relevant while establishing a first of its kind artist residency for operatic repertoire. He is on the opera faculty at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and the design faculty of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. He will conclude his tenure as Creative Director of Music Academy of the West in 2021.
His track record developing and directing acclaimed productions of new operas includes the world premieres of Reid's Pulitzer Prize-winning opera p r i s m and Missy Mazzoli's acclaimed new works Breaking the Waves and Proving Up, the New York premiere of Julian Wachner’s Rev23 in the Prototype Festival, a new production of Philip Glass' Cocteau opera Les enfants terribles and the U.S. coastal premieres of Jennifer Higdon’s opera of Cold Mountain and Jonathan Dove’s operas The Other Euridice and Flight. Darrah has also crafted music videos with “enigmatic twists” (NPR) for opera artists including Joyce DiDonato and Jakub Józef Orlinski on the Warner Music and Erato record labels, and he directed and produced a music video for Mazzoli’s GRAMMY Award-nominated VESPERS. He is currently in development for the world premiere of Dante with composer Patrick Cassidy and film producer Martha De Laurentiis, an filmic expansion of Cassidy’s popular aria “Vide Cor Meum” originally written for the 2001 film Hannibal.
He has made work with The Kennedy Center, Theater an der Wien, Prototype Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, The International Handel Festspiele, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Getty Villa Museum in Malibu, Salle Playel in Paris, Theatro Nacional São Paolo in Brazil, Barbican Centre, Sun Valley Music Festival, Kaufman Music Center, Bard Summerscape and Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Festival, Pacific Musicworks, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, The Union for Contemporary Art, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon.
He holds an MFA in Directing from the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA and later continued studies with Stephen Wadsworth at The Juilliard School. He has received the national Princess Grace Award in Theater, the James Pendelton Foundation Grant, was a directing nominee in the 2015 International Opera Awards, led the world premieres of two operas to win the “Best New Opera” award from the Music Critics Association of North America. He has been featured in GQ magazine and in Musical America as a New Artist of the Month.
He is a native of San Antonio, Texas and lives in Los Angeles, California.