Posted by: operatheaterink | August 23, 2022

Commentary: Long Beach Opera is a Creative Company that Honors Diversity, August 23, 2022

Long Beach Opera is a Creative Company that Honors Diversity

Photo: Long Beach Opera – Artistic Director, James Darrah

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Now that we are in the anti-racism phase of American history after the horrible murder of George Floyd and countless rallies shouting in support of Black Lives Matter — there has been an attempt to level the playing field and honor diversity in the American work force by enabling people of all races and religions to have equal job opportunities. Yet it appears that some of the people who have attained the jobs, don’t want them.

Yes, it has been a rough road, especially for blacks, who have a history in slavery. But they are now finally on every television show and in every film. And they are talented.

Still, now I have read about three articles in the L.A. Times on Long Beach Opera, which has hired black people in various positions, yet some have left their jobs because they find it difficult to work on the job site. They believe they were hired simply to meet some kind of quota, rather than for what they can offer the company due to their talents.

Yes, change is difficult and very slow-moving. These staff members might not like my response, but just a few years ago, they might not have been given the opportunities they have been given recently. So in my opinion, and this is an opinion-kind of article by someone who is an opera-lover and opera critic — I believe that no one should throw away any opportunity because times change, and each of us must grab on to opportunities when they arise because they may not come again. New members to the Long Beach Opera staff should not have quit their jobs, but should have embraced them. They should have worked hard to prove that they are the most valuable artists to the company, and the most qualified for their jobs.

I know that Long Beach Opera is one of the most creative companies in existence. The operas presented are usually not the norm. The company rarely presents operas that the attendees probably have heard of. And then these operas usually are presented in a very creative manner that some other company might not be able to perform.

The production design is always extremely creative and sometimes gorgeous. Which brings me to the new artistic head of the company, James Darrah.
I read that he is again Caucasian and will not talk to members of the press— that he is halting the diversity of the company.

I have known James Darrah for about 12 years. I met him at UCLA where he was a graduate student at a performance in MacGowen Hall. I read that he had married a talented mezzo-soprano there, who has graduated and gone on to sing at LA Opera and Long Beach Opera under its former director, Andreas Mitisek. At any rate, it appears that James Darrah now lives with someone else and is bi-sexual. So does not Mr. Darrah now meet the qualifications for diversifying the staff?

He, Mr. Darrah, is a quiet man, from what I remember, and no one could be better-suited or more qualified as an artistic director than he is, because his set design is usually stunning. So although Jennifer Rivera is quoted as having said that she did not plan to hire a Caucasian as the next artistic director of Long Beach Opera when Mr. Mitisek left and went to Chicago — in my mind, she has chosen the best possible person for the job. And he “has“ diversified the company.

So please readers — if you want to see something different, please drive out to see a production at Long Beach Opera. If you look hard enough, you may even find a production close-by in a parking lot of your local synagogue, or you may see a reading of a play being performed by actors in a local theater as a pre-curser to one of the upcoming Long Beach Opera productions, like I once did, which starred the renowned actor, Michael York, who is, by-the-way, an opera buff.

So I ask all people of all races and religions to embrace their new-found opportunities in the workplace, and to work hard to maintain them.

I am a minority as I am the daughter of Viennese Holocaust survivors. I am also a semi-retired opera critic. What can I say? I love opera. I love hearing the best artist for every role, and I loved hearing the voice of Leontyne Price singing “Aida,” and the voice of Marian Anderson when she sang Schubert Lieder, including the song about the little trout, “Die Forelle,” which I heard her sing so many times as a child, that I sat on the record and broke it.

Plus nothing could please me more than to hear “Porgy and Bess” sung with a black cast of main characters like Eric Owens and Angel Blue.

Now is the time to be black in America. Do not throw away any opportunity because you think you are entitled. Every opportunity is a gift. Believe me, at 75, I know. So embrace them.