OPERA AMERICA ANNOUNCES RECIPIENTS OF THE OPERA FUND: REPERTOIRE DEVELOPMENT GRANTS; Nine Opera Companies Receive a Total of $225,000 To Develop New North American Operas

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Nine Opera Companies Receive a Total of $225,000
To Develop New North American Operas

April 14, 2016 (New York) — OPERA America, the national service organization for opera and the nation’s leading champion for American opera, is pleased to announce that it has awarded grants to nine opera companies through The Opera Fund: Repertoire Development grant program. These grants provide vital financial support to opera companies developing new North American opera and music-theater works.

Repertoire Development grants allow creators and producers to assess and refine a work-in-progress. The grants may be used to offset creative fees and other costs associated with the development of a new opera or music-theater work, including lab productions, workshops, readings and revisions.

A total of $225,000 is being awarded to the following nine opera companies: American Lyric Theater (New York, NY), Beth Morrison Projects (New York, NY), Cincinnati Opera, HERE (New York, NY), Nashville Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA), Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and The Dallas Opera.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund endowment, which allows OPERA America to sustain a number of grant programs. Since The Opera Fund‘s inception, OPERA America has granted nearly $13 million to assist companies with the expenses associated with creating and developing new works, as well as related audience engagement initiatives. The Opera Fund has supported such works as Akhnaten (Philip Glass), Bel Canto (Jimmy López), Cold Sassy Tree (Carlisle Floyd), Elmer Gantry (Robert Aldridge), JFK (David T. Little), Little Women (Mark Adamo), Moby-Dick (Jake Heggie), Nixon in China (John Adams), Silent Night (Kevin Puts) and A Streetcar Named Desire (André Previn).

“Fostering the creation of new works is a cornerstone of OPERA America’s mission, and we’ve seen a remarkable flowering of new American opera over the past two decades,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “Through the generosity of Opera Fund donors, Repertoire Development grants continue to support creativity and innovation across the field.”

Recipients of the Repertoire Development grants were selected by a panel of industry leaders consisting of Lucy Arner, conductor; Paulette Haupt, artistic director, National Music Theater Conference at the O’Neill Theatre, and artistic director, PREMIERES; Joan La Barbara, composer and performer; Matthew Lata, professor and stage director, Florida State Opera; and Royce Vavrek, librettist.

The Opera Fund was launched by the National Endowment for the Arts, and it is funded by The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Lee Day Gillespie, Lloyd and Mary Ann Gerlach, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation.

The Opera Fund: Repertoire Development grants were awarded to the projects of these nine opera companies:

La Reina by composer/librettist Jorge Sosa and librettist by Laura Sosa Pedroza

Commissioned by American Lyric Theater in 2012, La Reina is an electro-acoustic opera with text in Spanish and English. Drawing its narrative from the drug trade in Mexico and the United States, the opera is inspired by some of the most vivid real-life players, both past and present, in this increasingly violent war. Jorge Sosa’s music blends classically trained voices with a chamber orchestra of acoustic and electronic forces, powerfully conveying a gripping libretto by Laura Sosa Pedroza and the composer.

Ellen West by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Frank Bidart

Ellen West is a new chamber opera-theater work that delves into the world of eating disorders, starvation and obsessive control. Based on the Frank Bidart poem of the same name, Ellen West tells the story of a bulimic girl and the attempts of people trying to save her from herself. Told from multiple perspectives, the story of Ellen’s struggle is interspersed with the clinical descriptions of a doctor’s attempts to save her, as well as her husband’s descriptions of what it is like to see his wife starve herself to death.

Fellow Travelers by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce

Fellow Travelers is based on Thomas Mallon’s 2007 best-selling novel of the same title. This new opera takes place in 1950s Washington, D.C., centering on Hawkins Fuller, a rising star in the State Department, and the younger Timothy Laughlin, a new arrival from the Midwest. Their clandestine relationship is tested and destroyed in the maelstrom of Senator McCarthy’s crusade against communism.

Title and further details to be announced by The Dallas Opera.
Love by composer Ellen Reid and librettist Roxie Perkins
Produced by PROTOTYPE Festival (a co-production of Beth Morrison Projects and HERE) in assocation with Trinity Wall Street

Love tells the story of a mother, V, and her daughter, L, who have locked themselves away from the world in order to help L heal from a mysterious sickness that grows within her. However, between the awakening of a new symptom and L’s maturing relationship with her chorus of imaginary friends, L and V’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble — causing L to question her mother’s motivation for locking them away, as well as the very validity of her sickness. Love explores humans’ desperate need to make sense out of senseless situations and the different ways they do so.

Three Way by composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote
Co-produced by American Opera Projects

Three Way comprises three one-act comic operas about craving and connection:

  • The Companion: In the near future, Maya lives with her android lover, Joe. This animatronic companion looks and sounds human but has a few glitches. A technician stops by to install new experimental software, with surprising results.
  • Safe Word: Mistress Salomé is a high-priced dominatrix in a private dungeon. Today, her new male client is a cocky businessman. Their “session” takes some unexpected turns.
  • Masquerade: It’s not a typical dinner party at a country mansion: It’s a masquerade. Tonight, four couples attempt to step out of their comfort zone and explore their hidden desires.
By/In Memphis by composers Robert Paterson, Marco Pavé, Kamala Sankaram, Sam Shoup and one additional collaborator to be determined, and librettists Jerry Dye and Marco Pavé

By/In Memphis is a collection of five short operas designed to be performed together or as standalone works. Each piece, created by a separate composer and a shared librettist, will be written for one or two singers and up to four instruments. Several composers are opera first-timers who bring experience from their current genres, which include jazz, rock and hip-hop. Each opera is inspired by a specific locale in Memphis, including the historic Elmwood Cemetery, Orange Mound (the first neighborhood in America built specifically for African-American homeowners) and the Crosstown area, which inspired Opera Memphis’ first opera cycle, Ghosts of Crosstown, in 2014.

Today It Rains by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed
Produced in partnership with American Opera Projects and Cornish College of the Arts

Today It Rains will be Opera Parallèle’s first mainstage commissioned work. The opera is set in May 1929, when Georgia O’Keeffe took a train from New York to Santa Fe with her friend Rebecca Strand, propelling herself away from her tumultuous relationship with Alfred Stieglitz and his circle in search of a more fulfilled life as an artist. The libretto will segue between O’Keeffe and Strand traveling through the American landscape, and O’Keeffe looking back on her love for Stieglitz. The production will be designed and directed by Brian Staufenbiel, with original film by Kimberly Reed.

The Grapes of Wrath by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Michael Korie

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis will premiere a new performing edition of The Grapes of Wrath, based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by John Steinbeck, during its 2017 festival season as part of the company’s New Works, Bold Voices series. The composer and librettist are collaborating on a reimagined, more dramatically compact two-act version of The Grapes of Wrath. This new version will require fewer artistic forces and will therefore be more widely performable.


For more information about OPERA America, its many programs and the National Opera Center, visit operaamerica.org.

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About OPERA America
OPERA America (operaamerica.org) leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.

  • Artistic services help opera companies and creative and performing artists to improve the quality of productions and increase the creation and presentation of North American works.
  • Information, technical and administrative services to opera companies reflect the need for strengthened leadership among staff, trustees and volunteers.
  • Education, audience development and community services are designed to enhance all forms of opera appreciation.

Founded in 1970, OPERA America’s worldwide membership network includes nearly 200 Company Members, 300 Associate and Business Members, 2,000 Individual Members and more than 15,000 subscribers to the association’s electronic news service. In response to the critical need for suitable audition, rehearsal and recording facilities, OPERA America opened the first-ever NATIONAL OPERA CENTER (operaamerica.org/OperaCenter) in September 2012 in New York City. With a wide range of artistic and administrative services in a purpose-built facility, OPERA America is dedicated to increasing the level of excellence, creativity and effectiveness across the field.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund, a growing endowment that allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. Since its inception, OPERA America has made grants of nearly $13 million to assist companies with the expenses associated with the creation and development of new works.

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