James Darrah | Credit: Simona Kessler

In a year of uncertainty, Long Beach Opera has found the direction to go in. Yesterday, Feb. 22, the company announced new artistic leadership. James Darrah is LBO’s next artistic director; he also takes on the title of chief creative officer.

Darrah’s appointment, beginning this month and going, for now, until 2024, follows a year-plus search at LBO for a new artistic director. Darrah will be only the third AD in the company’s four-decade history, succeeding Andreas Mitisek, who joined LBO in 2003 and stepped down at the end of the 2020 season.

The company’s current season, dubbed “Season of Solidarity,” has been overseen by Yuval Sharon in an interim capacity. Darrah was already on the season schedule, announced back in May 2020, set to direct Philip Glass’s Les enfants terribles — performances that will still go ahead this year as a drive-in production, May 21–23.

Darrah is one of a handful of artists who have found more work during the pandemic than ever. He’s led many of the digital projects that have seen classical musicians adapting their performances for an online audience. He joined Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra as creative director of digital content last fall, fashioning the orchestra’s Close Quarters season, which blends music with a kind of artistic collaboration and cinematic production. He’s also been the friend of opera companies across the country, directing films that become part of larger digital seasons; with LA Opera, he’s produced two short films, and his staging of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves is the company’s big online offering this spring.

SF Classical Voice spoke with Darrah about his ongoing projects last year. “Our goal was not to recreate a traditional season but to create something uniquely visual specifically to live online,” he said. “It’s a chance to rewrite the rules.”