About the Founder and 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 produced over 30 contemporary works in Virginia, DC, and New York City, 16 of which were world premieres, and 12 of which were UrbanArias commissions. He conducts all of UrbanArias’ productions. Highlights include Glory Denied (Cipullo), Unknown (Okpebholo/ Amaker – world premiere, UrbanArias commission), Why I Live at the P.O. (Eddins/O’Brien – world premiere, UrbanArias commission), The Roost (Migó/de los Santos – world premiere, UrbanArias commission), The Last American Hammer (Hilliard/Boresi – world premiere, UrbanArias commission), Paul’s Case (Spears/Walat – world premiere), Three Decembers (Heggie/Scheer), Blue Viola (Hilliard/Boresi – world premiere, UrbanArias commission), As One (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed), and After Life and Josephine (Cipullo – world premiere/UrbanArias commission).
Maestro Wood made his debut with the San Francisco Opera in 2004 with Verdi’s La traviata; he also conducted L’italiana in Algeri there, as well as several concerts. He recently conducted Rigoletto at Austin Opera, Silent Night at the University of British Columbia with the Vancouver Opera orchestra, Roméo et Juliette and Carmen at Opera Colorado, Die Fledermaus and As One at Hawaii Opera Theater, and Three Decembers at Kentucky Opera.
Mo. Wood has also 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, and The Nutcracker for San Francisco Ballet. Mo. Wood’s collaborations with the Wolf Trap Opera Company include Le Comte Ory and Die Zauberflöte. Additionally, Maestro 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 Il barbiere di Siviglia.
Mo. Wood held the position of Chorus Master at The Santa Fe opera from 2001 to 2004, where he 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. Mo. Wood was a Merola Opera Program and Western Opera Theater participant, and spent several years in Vienna studying voice and singing in the Arnold Schönberg Chor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, and completed his Master’s at Florida State University.
About the President
A champion of new works and a devotee of the stage, Susan Derry co-founded UrbanArias with Artistic Director Robert Wood in 2009 and continues to amplify the UrbanArias message of excellence and accessibility in DC and beyond.
Susan made her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning revival of Wonderful Town and performed the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, Germany. She garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of Francesca Johnson in The Bridges of Madison County at Keegan Theatre in Washington DC; the Washington Post proclaimed ”the ace in this staging is Susan Derry“ and Broadway World called it the role of her career. This past season, Susan sang Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady with the Utah Symphony Orchestra opposite Peter Scolari as Higgins and made her Off-Broadway debut in The Shrill Collective’s world premiere of Megan Bussiere’s A Period Piece.
Susan is the centerpiece of the Bold New Works series in Virginia, an initiative that created world-premiere musicals for smaller companies; her work was hailed as “brillant.” Theatrical career highlights include Marian in The Music Man; Kate/Lilli in Kiss Me Kate; Desdemona in Othello; Fiona in Brigadoon; and Meg in Crimes of the Heart. In DC she has appeared at the Shakespeare Theatre, the Signature Theatre and the Kennedy Center.
In concert, Susan headlined as guest soloist at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops under the direction of Rob Fisher and the late, great Skitch Henderson. She has the esteemed honor of appearing in the Encores! Series at New York City Center eleven times. Additionally, she has performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass conducted by Marin Alsop. Solo work includes two one-woman evenings: It’s Got To Be Love, about finding happiness among the high notes, and Days and Dazed, a look at how anything can happen in the busy middle of your life.
Susan earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, both in Vocal Performance. She serves as an adjunct professor of voice at American University in DC and has a thriving private studio.