Heartbeat Opera appoints Derrell Acon first associate artistic director

Derrell Acon (left) and Kelly Griffin in Heartbeat Opera's "Fidelio."
Russ Rowland

Heartbeat Opera has announced that, effective July 1, bass-baritone Derrell Acon will become the company’s first associate artistic director.

Acon will also serve part-time on the West Coast at Long Beach Opera as its associate artistic director and chief impact officer.

Heartbeat Opera said its audiences know Acon from his astonishing performances as Rocco in Fidelio, Kaspar in Der Freischütz, and a singer in Breathing Free.

“In addition to his illustrious career as a performer, Acon has established himself as a respected and sought-after thought-leader and Blacktivist in the opera industry,” Heartbeat Opera said.

On top of joining the core Heartbeat Opera leadership team, Acon will serve as creative producer on the company’s fall 2021 project “Quando il Glück monta i Verdi,” an opera short film and live performance featuring excerpts from Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck, and La Traviata and Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi, with compositional and narrative disruption by living artists.

Heartbeat Opera said this is the pilot production for “No Evil” projects, a multi-project series of operatic and filmic content that interrogates the dictum: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

The film is being created as a co-production with another opera company.

Heartbeat Co-Founder Louisa Proske, who was co-artistic director for its first seven seasons, will become the associate artistic director of Oper Halle in Germany.

She will remain on Heartbeat’s board of directors, maintain ongoing close communication with Heartbeat leadership, and return to direct individual Heartbeat productions, including the upcoming world premiere of “The Extinctionist.” Her new role at Heartbeat will be co-founder and resident director.

Ethan Heard, who co-founded Heartbeat and served as co-artistic director alongside Proske from 2014-2021, will now become Heartbeat’s sole artistic director.

Co-Music Directors Jacob Ashworth and Daniel Schlosberg, and Managing Director Annie Middleton remain in their positions, Heartbeat Opera said.

“I am delighted and honored to join Heartbeat as associate artistic director and creative producer,” Acon said. “In working with Ethan, Louisa and the rest of the family over the years on Fidelio, Der Freischütz, and Breathing Free: a visual album, I have always been impressed with the company’s ability to consistently produce high-quality, meaningful theatre while maintaining a steadfast commitment to their artists and their values,” he said.

“I believe that we must constantly challenge the opera art form to become ever-more inclusive, relevant, and compelling,” he added. “Heartbeat has emerged as one of the leaders within the field in this regard. The courage to disrupt and reimagine the so-called operatic canon and its baggage is key as we continue to redefine classical music theatre.

“I am excited to be a part of this amazing team,” Acon continued. “My greatest hope is that my new roles here, and at Long Beach Opera as associate artistic director and chief impact officer, 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,” he said. “This need remains urgent.”

For further information, please contact Aleba & Co. at 212/206-1450 or [email protected].

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