Los Angeles based director and designer James Darrah’s collaborative focus through varied mediums has quickly led him to be recognized as “the newest discovery… a gifted young American director” (Chicago Tribune). He has crafted an unconventional and varied body of work that “injects real drama” (The New York Times) into new theater and opera productions, installations, and events that become “once-in-a-lifetime experience[s]” (Opera News).
Recent projects include the acclaimed world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s operatic adaptation of Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia and the Prototype Festival, a return to his annual residency with Opera Omaha, where he launched a production of Handel’s Semele in a co-production with Opera Philadelphia; his European directorial debut with Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal for new production of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride; and an installment of San Francisco Symphony’s trailblazing SOUNDBOX series. In January 2017, he continued his ongoing collaboration with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas as director of Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied in a new staged production for San Francisco Symphony. Other recent projects include a debut at Bard Summerscape with a new production of Mascagni’s Iris and the first two installments of his three year Pelleas Project based on Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas et Mélisande with Louis Langrée and the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra. In 2017, he will direct the Debussy opera in the final installment of the project as part of the grand re-opening of Cincinnati’s Music Hall in a new production, conducted by Langrée, in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera.
Mr. Darrah is the artistic director for the new annual spring ONE festival and artists’ residency as part of his ongoing collaboration with Opera Omaha and direct the world premiere of Proving Up by Missy Mazzoli in a co-commission with Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha, and the Miller Theater.
Other past projects include a highly acclaimed Peter Grimes with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, the world premiere production of Frank Zappa’s infamous 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, a new Don Giovanni for the San Francisco Merola Opera Program, and his Lincoln Center directing debut with Handel’s Radamisto for The Juilliard School, where he returned for a new production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight in Fall 2016. Darrah has also realized projects in collaboration with Opera San Antonio, Theater @Boston Court, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, SCA Project Gallery, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, SB Arts and Lectures, Chicago Opera Theater, and the Croatian National Theater.
James Darrah holds an MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, where he was the recipient of the James Pendelton Foundation Grant and the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He continued studies with director Stephen Wadsworth at The Juilliard School. He has received the national Princess Grace Award in Theater, was a directing nominee in the 2015 International Opera Awards, and was named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month for December 2015. He has taught theater and performance for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach and the University of California, Los Angeles.