General Director and President

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About the General Director

Conductor Robert Wood founded UrbanArias in 2009. Under his guidance, the company has achieved national recognition as an innovator in the field of opera, and has given over 70 performances in Arlingon, DC, and New York City. He has conducted UrbanArias’ productions of Glory Denied (Cipullo), Before Breakfast (Pasatieri), The Filthy Habit (Hilliard), Photo-Op (Cummings), Paul’s Case (Spears), and Three Decembers (Heggie) to great acclaim.

Maestro Wood made his debut with the San Francisco Opera in 2004 with Verdi’s La traviata. He recently conducted Die Fledermaus at Hawaii Opera Theater, and Roméo et Juliette and Carmen at Opera Colorado.

Mr. Wood was appointed Conductor in Residence at the Minnesota Opera from 2006-2008, leading productions of L’italiana in Algeri, Le nozze di Figaro, La donna del lago, Rusalka, and, most recently, Il barbiere di Siviglia.  Mr. Wood has also conducted concerts at San Francisco Opera featuring Stephanie Blythe and Lawrence Brownlee, and with the Merola Opera Program’s young artists. Additionally, he conducted L’italiana in Algeri at Vancouver Opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Hawaii Opera Theater, The Love for Three Oranges at Indiana University Opera Theater, La cenerentola at New Jersey Opera Theater, Lakmé at Minnesota Opera, and The Nutcracker for San Francisco Ballet.  Mr. Wood’s collaborations with the Wolf Trap Opera Company include Le Comte Ory and Die Zauberflöte. Other conducting engagements include H.M.S. Pinafore with the Indiana University Opera, and a recording for ODC Dance in San Francisco of Jack Perla’s On a Train Headed South.

Mr. Wood spent many years on the staff of San Francisco Opera where he led performances of La traviata and L’italiana in Algeri, and assisted productions of La bohème, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Carlos, Hansel and Gretel, The Merry Widow, and Tosca. He has also appeared as conductor for many productions with Opera San José including Tosca, Faust, Manon, Carmen, L’elisir d’amore, Rigoletto and La bohème, and as guest conductor with the San José Chamber Orchestra.  Mr. Wood held the position of Chorus Master at The Santa Fe opera from 2001 to 2004, and acted as cover conductor for Beatrice and Benedict, La belle Hélène, L’italiana in Algeri, and Lucia di Lammermoor. At The Santa Fe Opera, he also received critical acclaim for the choral contribution to the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Madame Mao, and the American premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin.  Mr. Wood also served as Chorus Master for Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of Les Pêcheurs de perles in 2004, and has appeared at Chicago Opera Theatre and the Florida State Opera, where he conducted Gluck’s Orfeo.

Mr. Wood was a 1998 Merola Opera Program and Western Opera Theater participant, and spent several years in Vienna studying voice and singing in the Arnold Schönberg Chor.


About the President

Board President Susan Derry is an accomplished actor and singer. For the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre, she appeared most recently as Helen in their revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night, played Betty Schaeffer in Sunset Boulevard, and was also part of the Helen Hayes Award-nominated cast of Showboat. At the Kennedy Center, Susan played Kathleen in the critically acclaimed revival of Ragtime; she also appeared there in Mame and in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop, which went on to play Carnegie Hall.

Desdemona in Othello, Meg in Crimes of the Heart and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady were all roles for the New Harmony Theater. As Fiona in Brigadoon, “she is a gem – winsome acting and a voice to make you believe in magic;” and as Maria in West Side Story Susan “brings a reality, naturalness, and a dramatic intensity to every scene she enters. It is she and her performance that make you respond to the tough realities West Side Story is exposing.” Also to her credit are leading roles in Company, A Little Night Music, The Fantasticks and The Sound of Music; some favorites are Betty Haynes in White Christmas, Agnes in I Do! I Do! and Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest.

In New York, Susan headlined as a guest soloist for an evening of Frank Loesser’s music at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, led by Rob Fisher and the late Skitch Henderson. She has appeared in concert at Joe’s Pub and has the distinct honor of appearing in the Encores! Series at New York City Center eleven times. Susan made her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning revival of Wonderful Town, and played the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, Germany.

She holds a Bachelors of Music degree from Northwestern University and a Masters of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where she was noted for her “striking poignancy” as Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw, under the baton of Julius Rudel, and received extensive critical acclaim for her portrayal of the False Angele in Kurt Weill’s The Tsar has his Photograph Taken. Other operatic roles include of Alexandra in Regina, Adele in Die Fledermaus and Jessica in Portland Opera’s world premiere of Reynaldo Hahn’s The Merchant of Venice.