After only two seasons at the helm of the Kentucky Opera, General Director Ian Derrer is returning to the Dallas Opera.
Kentucky Opera leaders lauded Derrer and thanked him for his work, which included expanding opportunities for young artists, his commitment to diversity and expanding the company’s outreach efforts.
“Ian has been terrific to work with and we enjoyed having him at Kentucky Opera,” said the 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.”
The company said in a news release that a search for his successor already was underway.
“Although we are sad to lose Ian, we have every confidence in our staff that this transition will be a smooth one,” Blodgett Jr. said.
Derrer, 43, served as artistic administrator at the Dallas company before coming to Louisville as general director in September 2016. He will leave in July to return to Dallas as the Kern Wildenthal general director and CEO.
The Kentucky Opera said that Derrer “demonstrated his serious commitment to diversity by hiring women directors to stage all three mainstage productions” of the most recent season. He also expanded opportunities for young artists, which “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,” the company said.
“Derrer upheld the high artistic standards of Kentucky Opera, for which we are grateful” the company said. “The community regrets losing Ian but congratulates him on this (new) opportunity.”
Derrer had told Insider shortly before the premiere of “Barber of Seville” this year that he enjoyed Louisville and his leadership role as it provided him with an opportunity to connect with the community and to serve an opera company in a role he had not occupied before.
The job kept him busy, he said, because it involved everything from planning events to keeping in touch with the arts world locally and across the state and nation, as well as remaining involved in day-to-day activities such as rehearsals.
A classically trained baritone, Derrer said he always enjoyed seeing people’s reaction to first-rate singing, especially during events such as lunch hour studio artist recitals in the Actors Theater lobby, which he described as a “musical midday oasis.”
“Jaws drop,” he said, when people see and hear such talented opera singers up close.
Derrer said he also tried to get more people interested in going to local opera performances through library discussions, use of social media and the Sidecar concert, a cabaret-style performance of classic standards in an intimate setting. The concert will return on May 19.
In his two seasons with the Kentucky Opera, the general director offered a balanced repertoire that generally featured a modern opera, such as “Dead Man Walking” in the just concluded season, and two traditional pieces — though sometimes with a modern twist — with at least one for families, such as “Barber of Seville” in February.
The company’s next season will follow that pattern, offering “Enemies, A Love Story,” “The Magic Flute” and “Rigoletto.”
While the opera is competing for consumers with a seemingly ever greater array of entertainment options, Derrer said that he remains optimistic about the traditional art form’s prospects, in part because it served as a showcase for music at its highest level — but also because it provides a respite for people constantly distracted by their mobile devices.
At a time when people are hard-pressed to not have their phones by their sides, having two or three hours of time completely unencumbered is rare, he said.
“And I think that’s a huge selling point for seeing live opera,” Derrer said.