BY LEE CULLUM
emember the movie, The Graduate An older friend
advised a very young Dustin Hoffman that only one
word mattered anymore: “plastics.” Now Vikram
Ian Derrer knows what he is doing. A baritone himself,
he studied voice at SMU’s Meadows School, so near and
yet so far from where he grew up, in a town called Monroe,
near Charlotte, North Carolina. Ian saw a lot of The Dallas
Opera in his SMU days and wound up working on Elektra
when British director John Copley was summoned at the last
minute to replace Michael Kahn of the Shakespeare Theatre
Company in Washington. (Kahn unexpectedly departed but
returned to Dallas a few years ago to direct Romeo and Juliet.)
Copley needed a man-Friday, and who better than the eager
student from Meadows?
It was then that Ian began to realize he wanted to run the
show—or the logistics of the show—not perform in it. He
worked backstage at Santa Fe Opera as well as other houses.
He also collected Masters degrees in arts management at
Northwestern and Brooklyn College, taking voice all the
while, trying to find his way.
Before heading to the Chicago Lyric for eight years, Ian
did some time at New York City Opera, now extinct but
run in its last gasping days by George Steel, who spent four
months in charge of The Dallas Opera before temptation
overtook him. That was just as well. Vastly talented though
Steel is, I doubt that Dallas would have worked for George
Steel or George Steel for Dallas. One of his last hits in New
York was Powder Her Face, a succès de scandale in which
25 men roamed the stage, languorously nude, for several
minutes, attesting to the seductive powers of the heroine.
It was a sensation, but hardly the thing for even the fringes
of the Bible Belt.
The Dallas Opera commissioned British composer Joby Talbot to collaborate with Gene Scheer