General Director & Chief Executive Officer
A two time Grammy nominee, Jennifer Rivera has sung leading roles in operas on five continents from New York City Opera to the Berlin Staatsoper. Her awards include Debut Artist of the Year at the New York City Opera, and the Helpmann Award (Australia’s Tony Award) for leading performer in an opera. In addition to her singing career, Rivera is also an award winning blogger and a contributor to the Huffington Post. She was selected as part of the 2016 cohort of Opera America’s Leadership Intensive as well as Dallas Opera’s Institute for Women Conductors and Administrators in 2017. Before coming to LBO, Rivera served as the Director of Artistic Development at the Center for Contemporary Opera where she assisted in fundraising for and overseeing a festival featuring four contemporary operas throughout New York City. Jennifer began her tenure as LBO’s major gifts officer in May 2017, then went on to become Development Director, Executive Director and now General Director & CEO.
Since assuming the role as LBO’s Executive Director in 2019, Rivera has overseen a financial turnaround for the company which included increased fundraising, booking the largest single individual pledge in the company’s history, eliminating debt, bringing the company from deficit to surplus, and growing and diversifying the Board of Directors. She oversaw a successful fundraising campaign which raised over $1 million in additional revenue, and personally wrote over $100,000 of successfully funded grants. For the 2019 season, Rivera created and achieved funding for the Community Conversation program, as well as writing the successful grant application to revise the Central Park Five. She then served as producer for the world premiere, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2021 Rivera oversaw the selection of James Darrah as only the third Artistic Director in the company’s history, as well as the return of the company to a downtown Long Beach location. As a result of her achievements with the company, the Board voted unanimously to elevate her to the position of General Director & CEO.
Jennifer’s performance career included her performance of the title role in Handel's Faramondo with Brisbane Baroquein Australia which won her The Helpmann Award for best leading female performer in an opera. Her European debut as Sesto in La clemenza di Tito with the Teatro Regio di Torino directed by Graham Vick and conducted by Roberto Abaddo was followed by her debut with the Berlin Staatsoper as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, as well as Nerone in a new production of Agrippina conducted by Rene Jacobs. She was then invited to sing Licida in L’Olimpiade by Pergolesi at the Innsbruck Early Music Festival, followed by the same role at the Pergolesi Festival in Jesi Italy and a return to the Berlin Staatsoper as Rosina, as well as Ismene in a new production of Antigone by Traetta conducted by Maestro Jacobs.
Other engagements included Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking with Opera Parallele, New Orleans Opera, and Central City Opera, and Penelope in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with Boston Baroque (which included a Grammy nominated recording). She created the role of Queen Sophine for Dallas Opera in the Mark Adamo world premiere Becoming Santa Claus, as well as creating the role of Veruca Salt in the world premiere of The Golden Ticketfor Opera Theatre of St Louis. Her recordings include Nerone in Agrippina for Harmonia Mundi (Grammy Nomination 2013) and Licida in L’Olimpiade for Sony Music, as well as a DVD of L’Olimpiade and a solo recording, Innocence / Experience. While still a student at Juilliard, Ms. Rivera was invited to join the roster of the New York City Opera, and after winning their prestigious Debut Artist of Year award, went on to sing over 70 performances with the company including Cherubino, Rosina, Lazuli in L’Etoile, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Nerone in Agrippina, as well as roles in both Adamo opera’s Little Women and Lysistrata.
Jennifer received her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Boston University and her Masters of Music degree from The Juilliard School. She is a native of Santa Rosa, CA and currently lives with her family, including one son, two cats and four chickens in Long Beach.
Artistic Director & Chief Creative Officer
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.
Derrell Acon, D.M.A.
Associate Artistic Director & Chief Impact Officer
Derrell Acon is a uniquely accomplished bass-baritone and an international scholar on topics ranging from 19th Century Italian Opera to American Blacktivism. He has made his debut in the roles of Jake and Jim in Porgy and Bess at Semperoper Dresden, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsches Theater München, Kölner Philharmonie, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Haifa Congress Center, Tel-Aviv Charles Bronfman Hall, and Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari. In 2018, he debuts as Escamillo in Opera Ithaca's Carmen, as Rocco in Heartbeat Opera's Fidelio, as Zuniga in Pacific Opera Project’s Carmen, and as the bass soloist in LA Master Chorale’s Messiah Sing-Along.
Dr. Acon is a 2013-2014 Fulbright scholar to Italy, where he researched the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and lectured on the Black American Experience, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grantee for his work in Verdian scholarship and performance, and a frequent presenter throughout the U.S. at such venues as conferences for the National Association for Ethnic Studies, National Association of Negro Musicians, and National Men of Color Summit and internationally at venues in Europe and Africa. Dr. Acon has also been seen as an opera lecturer at The Chautauqua Institution, Portland Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, and Des Moines Metro Opera. He is excited to perform and lecture this season with LBO, as well as act as Project Director for Community Conversationson topics around race, equity, and justice.