Meadows Alum Ian Derrer Named Dallas Opera CEO

Career path began with student internship in 1996

Photo Credit: Karen Almond

The Dallas Opera (TDO) recently announced that it has appointed Meadows alumnus Ian Derrer (B.M. voice performance, ’96) as its new general director and CEO. Derrer interned with the organization as a student and, after earning advanced degrees and working with major opera companies in New York and Chicago, served as TDO’s artistic administrator from 2014 to 2016. He is currently the general director of Kentucky Opera. He assumes his new role in Dallas in July.

“We are thrilled that one of our own has been named to a leadership position with one of the country’s leading opera companies,” said Samuel Holland, dean of the Meadows School. “We look forward to building on our existing collaborative work with the opera and creating new opportunities that will benefit students and the community.”

The press release from The Dallas Opera follows:

The Dallas Opera is extremely proud to announce the appointment of Ian Derrer as General Director and CEO

The Dallas Opera’s former artistic administrator, now serving as General Director of Kentucky Opera, will assume his new responsibilities in July 2018

Appointed TDO’s Eighth General Director

DALLAS, TX. APRIL 5, 2018 – The Dallas Opera is both pleased and proud to announce that, after an international search supported by Arts Consulting Group, TDO has hired Kentucky Opera General Director Ian Derrer to become the eighth general director in its history, effective this July.

The appointment of the 43-year-old graduate of the Meadows School of the Arts (SMU) marks Derrer’s return to the company—and the city—where he previously served as artistic administrator from 2014 to 2016.

Ian Derrer is well known to the music community in Dallas and throughout the U.S., where he is celebrated for his diplomatic skills, openness, inclusiveness, his passion for great singing, and his keen interest in creating beneficial partnerships and collaborations.

His official title will be The Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO.

The move was officially announced earlier this afternoon at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House byDallas Opera Chairman Holly Mayer. Those attending included current Dallas Opera Board Members, Trustees and Inner Circle members, as well as representatives of North Texas media outlets. The incoming general director was present in order to participate in a public conversation with Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume, an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Derrer’s work, and to take questions from the Dallas-Fort Worth news media.

“There is a definite air of excitement about this appointment,” explains 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.

“However, familiarity doesn’t outweigh managerial skills and experience. The reason Ian was selected to be The Dallas Opera’s next general director and CEO,” she adds, “is because, by the end of the selection process, it was clear to myself and other members of the search committee that, among a very impressive field of contenders, Ian stood out.”

“He’s the right man at the right time in our evolution as an opera company,” adds Lynn McBee, Chair-Elect of TDO/Chair of the Search Committee, “and we cannot wait for him to get back to work here in Dallas!

“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.”

Ian Derrer has a degree in voice performance from Southern Methodist University. As an undergraduate, he 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 (Evanston, IL) and Brooklyn College.

He knows the opera world, inside out, having worked professionally as a singer, assistant stage manager, stage manager, and director in influential regional and national companies (Santa Fe Opera, The Atlanta Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Pacific, and Washington National Opera) and obtaining international experience at the Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy, before stepping up to his first administrative position at New York City Opera in 2004.

In two short years, Chicago came calling and Derrer accepted a position as rehearsal administrator for Lyric Opera. During his eight years with that renowned company, Ian rose through the ranks to serve as director of production and head of the rehearsal department before being invited to accept the position of artistic administrator for The Dallas Opera in the summer of 2014.

Mr. Derrer worked closely with then-General Director and CEO Keith Cerny and Maestro Villaume (the Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director) on casting, production and programming details; overseeing budgets for the artistic staff, principal artists, orchestra and chorus; and acting as the point of contact between TDO and the national unions (AGMA and AFM) on issues related to collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, he served as an important liaison between Artistic and the other departments that constitute the company: Development, Media and PR, Marketing, Production, Education, etc.

“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,” writes 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.”

Ian Derrer’s effective leadership over the past two seasons earned the notice of America’s most influential opera publication, Opera Newsmagazine, which described him in a September 2017 feature article as a “Creative Force” in the industry.

During his tenure, Kentucky Opera presented a number of noteworthy debuts: Christine Brewer, Stephanie Blythe, Rodell Rosel, Emily Fons, Phyllis Pancella, Will Liverman, Megan Marino, John Irvin, Adam Lau, and Dale Travis. Future KO debuts secured by Mr. Derrer include Nicole Cabell, Mario Rojas, Jamez McCorkle, Brandie Sutton, Sean Michael Plumb, Danielle Pastin, Anthony Clark Evans, Mané Galoyan, and David Leigh—as well as conductors David Stern and Roberto Kalb.

Derrer also demonstrated his serious commitment to diversity by hiring women directors to stage all three mainstage productions of Kentucky Opera’s upcoming 2018-2019 Season.

By expanding opportunities for young artists during his time as general director, Derrer sparked a notable increase in applications for the Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program. Many of those opportunities were the direct result of creative community outreach efforts and exciting partnerships and collaborations throughout the Greater Louisville area.

“Ian has been terrific to work with and we enjoyed having him at Kentucky Opera,” says Kentucky Opera Board Chairman William A. Blodgett, Jr. “He brings a great deal of artistic experience and creative thinking to the tasks at hand and has impressed us all with his boundless energy, his personal charm, and his confident approach to the job.

“Over these past two seasons, Ian Derrer upheld the high artistic standards of Kentucky Opera, for which we are grateful. The community regrets losing Ian but congratulates him on this opportunity to return to, and lead, The Dallas Opera. We know he will be a tremendous success there.”

Derrer has been a lifelong opera lover. When he was a child, both his parents sang in the Charlotte Opera Chorus (now Opera Carolina) and occasionally allowed him to attend their rehearsals. Even when the family was relaxing at home together, opera was often the music of choice on the turntable. Derrer recently told Opera News, “This was my misspent youth! I fell in love with languages…with various singers, I fell in love with the voice.

“It is still my passion.”

About The Dallas Opera

Founded in 1957, The Dallas Opera is an internationally recognized innovator dedicated to the overall advancement of the operatic art form and the support of established and emerging artists, as well as the education and development of new opera audiences in North Texas—and beyond. These goals are achieved by commissioning and producing world-class opera; through ground-breaking institutes, national competitions and topical programs; and by presenting opera in both traditional and non-traditional formats and venues in order to attract patrons of every age, background, educational level, and ethnicity—while engaging with more than 87,000 people in our community each year. TDO is equally committed to the task of responsible stewardship and is managed with efficiency and accountability, to the highest possible standards. For more information, visit >