Long Beach Opera Announces Dr. Derrell Acon As Its Assoc. Artistic Director And Chief Impact Officer

Company will release the visual album amor y alma, curated and produced by Dr. Acon, in celebration of Juneteenth.

By: Jun. 17, 2021
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Long Beach Opera Announces Dr. Derrell Acon As Its Assoc. Artistic Director And Chief Impact Officer

Long Beach Opera announced today that the company is promoting Dr. Derrell Acon to the position of Associate Artistic Director & Chief Impact Officer effective immediately. Dr. Acon has served as the company's Director of Engagement and Equity since 2019, as well as performing the role of Antron McCray in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera The Central Park Five, and curating and managing the Community Conversations Initiative.

He will work closely with LBO's new Artistic Director & Chief Creative Officer, James Darrah, in planning and curating the opera's artistic output, as well as continuing to oversee ancillary programming like Community Conversations.

Acon is also being announced today as Associate Artistic Director and Creative Producer at the New York based Heartbeat Opera. LBO and Heartbeat will announce joint projects involving Acon in the near future.

In addition to his work in the sphere of Engagement and Equity both at LBO and throughout the field of classical music and opera, Derrell Acon is a lauded performer and scholar. He holds a doctoral degree (19th-Century Opera History and Performance) and Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), and graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Music degree and Bachelor of Arts degree in Government, with a minor in Ethnic Studies.

He has recently made debuts at National Opera Center in New York City, the Kalihu and Palace Theaters in Hawaii, Semperoper Dresden, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsches Theater München, Kölner Philharmonie, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Haifa Congress Center, Tel-Aviv Charles Bronfman Hall, Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, and La Compagnia del BelCanto di Milano, and has presented his scholarship at venues such as The Glimmerglass Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, the Marcus Center in Milwaukee, and most recently with the International Contemporary Ensemble. Acon also works as an independent EDI consultant and strategist for organizations, institutions, and groups throughout the performing arts sector. He is a co-founder and leader of the Black Opera Alliance.

Along with his performance and administrative career, Acon has served as creative producer for multiple events and projects at LBO. During Black History Month, Long Beach Opera filmed a short visual album entitled amor y alma under the creative direction of Acon, and in partnership with the Museum of Latin American Art.

The video of this creative digital work, a celebration of Black and Latinx female beauty and empowerment, will be released today in honor of Juneteenth. It features the music of Black and Spanish composers, performed by emerging artists Marlaina Owens and Alaysha Fox.

Artistic Director James Darrah stated, "I am so ready to begin collaborating with Derrell on artistic planning and projects in this new role. The two of us have different and yet thrillingly complementary skill sets when it comes to artistic curation and I am excited to embed his bold, visionary work as a singing artist, activist, musician and creative producer into the evolving artistic identity of LBO. His voice is already a vital part of LBO's commitment to building an equitable and strong team of diverse voices to create opera for today's world and this appointment now brings his leadership and vision directly into the growth and artistry of LBO's new era."

General Director & C.E.O. Jennifer Rivera said, "I have been a huge fan of Derrell during his entire tenure at LBO, and am eager to see what he will accomplish in this new role. He has already brought such strong talent and insight to our company in his current role, and his artistic input into the company's future is sure to create new ideas and opportunities for us to grow."

Derrell Acon noted, "This is a moment. I am unbelievably excited to move into this new role at LBO, a company which continues to position itself as a leader in the field around fresh, relevant artistic programming and intentional inclusion. I look forward to working with Jenny and James, along with the rest of our mighty team, to explore and model a new brand of opera -- for the folk.

My greatest hope is that my new roles at LBO and at Heartbeat Opera, as Associate Artistic Director and Creative Producer, will help ignite far-reaching change throughout the artistic and administrative landscape of the opera industry. We should all continue to push for more Black voices in artistic, producorial, and board leadership. This need remains urgent."

Fulbright scholar and award-winning bass-baritone Dr. Derrell Acon is an activist, producer, and educator who understands the power of the performing arts to foster human compassion and catalyze conversations on challenging subjects. He has over 15 years of experience as an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) practitioner and continues to establish himself as a leader in classical music, education, and ethnic studies as relates to the role of the artist-activist. Derrell is known for his unique and provocative presentations and productions, which often combine performance and scholarship. His experiential workshop "An Absurdist Conversation on Rainbows and COLOR" boldly explored the queer experience within Black culture, while his performance-presentations "Ay Blackity Black; Classical S&#t that ain't Wack" and "Old Opera, New Opera, Red Opera, Blues Opera" explored the barriers inherent to classical music education and performance. He has taught at all levels on topics in 19th century opera, Black Art, and artistic activism, including a course entitled "The Musician in Society" at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and an online seminar entitled "Viva VERDI: Why Giuseppe and Gang would be BLM Activists" with LBO. Most recently, he presented the keynote address "poems are bullsh*t: Demanding Black Space in Opera" for the inaugural Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum hosted by the International Contemporary Ensemble. Derrell is Associate Artistic Director and Creative Producer at Heartbeat Opera, where he has been seen in Fidelio, Der Freischütz, and Breathing Free: a visual album.

Derrell is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grantee for his work in challenging the traditional narrative in opera and a frequent presenter throughout the U.S. at venues such as the National Association for Ethnic Studies and National Association of Negro Musicians conferences, and internationally at venues in Europe and Africa. His publications include "From Without the Veil" (In Mourning and In Rage Atti del Convegno), "Neglected Legacy" (OPERA America Magazine), "Whence Comes Black Art" (Lawrence University), and "This is Just My Job: Duty and Intervention in Our Fidelio" (Presses Universitaires du Septentrion in Lille). Recent operatic roles include Rocco in Heartbeat Opera's Fidelio and Antron McCray in the Pulitzer Prize-winning production of The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis with LBO. www.derrellacon.com