Dallas Opera selects new CEO with SMU ties after international search
Less than four months after Dallas Opera CEO and general director Keith Cerny announced his resignation, a replacement has been named. The current general director of Kentucky Opera, Ian Derrer, will assume his new dual roles in July, ahead of TDO's 2018-19 season.
The 43-year-old graduate of the SMU's Meadows School of the Arts will become the eighth general director in TDO's history. This marks a return to Dallas for Derrer, who served as artistic administrator of the Meadows School from 2014-16.
"There is a definite air of excitement about this appointment," says TDO chairman Holly Mayer. "Ian is well loved and greatly respected by our board members, TDO staff, and the opera world. And he returns to a place where he already has deep roots, along with a host of friends and admirers."
Derrer was selected following an international search supported by Arts Consulting Group.
"He's the right man at the right time in our evolution as an opera company," says Lynn McBee, TDO chair-elect and chair of the search committee. "There's an ongoing effort to make today's Dallas Opera more engaging, exciting, and relevant; to create truly balanced seasons that incorporate the best of the traditional repertoire along with new works and productions; and to embrace our present and future patrons and supporters by actively responding to their needs. Visionary and inspirational leadership is key, and I am confident in Ian's ability to provide it."
As an undergraduate in voice performance at SMU, Derrer interned at the Dallas Opera as an assistant to legendary stage director John Copley for the 1995-96 season production of Richard Strauss' Elektra. Derrer went on to earn additional degrees in opera production and performing arts management from Northwestern University and Brooklyn College.
He has worked professionally as a singer, assistant stage manager, stage manager, and director in companies ranging from Santa Fe Opera to Washington National Opera, and obtained his first administrative position in 2004 at New York City Opera.
From there, Derrer spent eight years with Lyric Opera in Chicago, first as rehearsal administrator and then as director of production and head of the rehearsal department, before accepting the position of artistic administrator for the Dallas Opera in the summer of 2014.
"I am personally excited — as are many of us at TDO and in the classical music community — to welcome Ian back to the Dallas Opera to assume this extremely important role," says Dallas Opera music director Emmanuel Villaume. "Ian's background and intelligence, his wide range of experience, and his approachable personality make him the perfect leader to capitalize on the success achieved by the Dallas Opera and to guide the company in our next steps."
While at Kentucky Opera, Derrer demonstrated a serious commitment to diversity by hiring women directors to stage all three mainstage productions of its upcoming 2018-2019 season. That dovetails nicely with the DSO's acclaimed Linda and Mitch Hart Institute of Women Conductors, which in 2017 expanded to include training for opera administrators with the intent of helping them become leaders of America's top opera companies later in their careers.