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James Darrah is a director and designer of theater, music, opera, and video and his collaborative focus through varied mediums has quickly led him to be recognized as "the newest discovery... a gifted young American director" (Chicago Tribune) who "injects real drama" (New York Times) into productions that become "once-in-a-lifetime experiences" (Opera News).
He leads the new Los Angeles-based production company, chromatic; a collective of interdisciplinary artists who collaborate to create aesthetic theatrical events across blurring mediums which prioritize narrative over convention. Current projects include direction for Don Giovanni with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and conductor Edo de Waart, a return to Opera Omaha with a new production of John Adams’ A Flowering Tree, a continuation of his close collaboration with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas as director of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, in a new staged co-production between the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, as well as direction for Handel’s Saul with Julian Wachner and Trinity Wall Street’s 12TH Night Festival. chromatic will partner with LA-based ensemble wildUp for design installations with their concert Pulp in Santa Barbara at The Music Academy of the West, design and curate the 2015 Opera Omaha gala in a transformed abandoned shopping mall and he will curate chromatic’s debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program featuring the US premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s “Hommage á Klaus Nomi” and HK Gruber’s “Frankenstein!!” conducted by John Adams, as well as direct in the inaugural season of Opera San Antonio with a production of Poulenc’s La voix humaine.
Other recent work includes direction and design for a new lauded production of Britten’s Peter Grimes with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, the world premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor-laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, his directing debut with Opera Omaha and frequent collaborator Stephen Stubbs conducting their new performance edition and production of Handel's Agrippina, Pacific Musicworks in Seattle directing and choreographing a new Semele, a new Don Giovanni for the Merola Opera Program, his Lincoln Center directing debut with Handel's Radamisto for The Juilliard School with conductor Julian Wachner, collaborations with Peter Sellars in staging John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary in Los Angeles, London, Paris and Lucerne and Christopher Alden for the LA Philharmonic’s Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy, as well as a short film installation to accompany Arnold Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens for the Theater@Boston Court. He has also directed four new site-specific productions for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, two exhibitions and curated shows with the SCA Project Gallery, two productions at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, over five new productions (including two US West Coast Premieres) for Opera UCLA as well as a multimedia installation of Venus & Adonis in Seattle with acclaimed visual artist Susie J. Lee.
He trained as a director/designer with the Croatian National Theater and the Split Summer Festival and his theater work ranges from adaptations and new translations of Aeschylus' Oresteia to new productions of the plays of Caryl Churchill. He has taught theater and performance for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts, and the University of California, Los Angeles. MFA - UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he was the recipient of the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829 and has been awarded the James Pendleton Foundation Grant and the national Princess Grace Award in Theater.