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" (New York Times) into new theater and opera productions, installations, and events that become "once-in-a-lifetime experience[s]" (Opera News).
Darrah recently completed direction for the acclaimed world premiere of Missy Mazzoli's operatic adaptation of Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia and the work's New York premiere at the Prototype Festival. Other recent projects include a new production of Jonathan Dove's Flight for The Juilliard School and his debut at Bard Summerscape with a new production of Mascagni’s seldom seen Iris. Also this season, he returned to his creative team's annual residency with Opera Omaha in April, where he launched a production of Handel’s Semele in a co-production with Opera Philadelphia. He made his European directorial debut with Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal for new production of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and directed an installment of San Francisco Symphony’s trailblazing SOUNDBOX series.
In January 2017, he continues his ongoing collaboration with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas as director of Mahler’s Das klagende Lied in a new staged installation for the San Francisco Symphony. Darrah also recently collaborated with LA-based dance group WIFE for the first installment of his three year Pelleas Project based on Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas et Mélisande with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. September 2016 saw year two of the project, which included a newly commissioned translation of Maeterlinck's play by Stephen Wadsworth and the music of Fauré. In October 2017, he will direct the Debussy opera in the final installment of the project as part of the grand re-opening of Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall in a new production, conducted by Langrée, in collaboration with the Cincinnati Opera.
In 2018, Darrah will expand his annual work with Opera Omaha and assume the role of artistic director for the company's newly created annual spring festival and artists’ residency. In the festival's inaugural year, he will also direct the world premiere of Proving Up by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek in a co-commission with Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha, and the Miller Theater in New York.
Other acclaimed past projects include Peter Grimes, Peer Gynt and On the Town 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. Darrah has also realized projects in collaboration with Opera San Antonio, The Theater@Boston Court, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, SCA Gallery, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Chicago Opera Theater, and the Croatian National Theater, where he was an artist-in-residence with the Split Summer Festival. He has assisted on multiple projects for directors Peter Kazaras, Stephen Wadsworth, Christopher Alden and Peter Sellars.
Darrah holds an MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, where he also studied with director Peter Kazaras and was the recipient of the James Pendelton Foundation Grant and the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He continued his studies assisting 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, acting and performance for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach and the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California, Los Angeles.
UPCOMING WORK and full credits can be found on the chronology.