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Press Released: 15 Feb 2008

OPERA America and Opera.ca Announce 2007 Opera Fund Awards

Total of $297,000 Awarded to 18 Opera Companies to Support Development of New Works and Audience Development Initiatives

OPERA America and Opera.ca have announced the recipients of the 2006-2007 Audience Development and Repertoire Development Awards from The Opera Fund and the Canadian Opera Creation Program. Audience Development Awards provide financial assistance for audience development projects in conjunction with the production of American operatic works. Repertoire Development Awards provide financial assistance for companies’ efforts to assess and refine a work in progress or to revive a work after its recent premiere.

The Opera Fund is a growing endowed fund which allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. “Promoting the enjoyment of opera on all levels is a cornerstone of OPERA America’s Mission,” stated Marc A. Scorca, President and CEO. “Our ability to provide these awards in support of audience development allows us to assume a truly significant role in the nurturing of opera audiences in North America.”

Previous recipients of The Opera Fund grants include several highly-acclaimed works including John Adams’ Doctor Atomic premiered in 2005 at San Francisco Opera; Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner, which received its first fully-staged performance at Michigan Opera Theatre also in 2005; Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair, which premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2004; and Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, which received its staged world premiere at The Santa Fe Opera in 2005. Premiering in February 2006, The Minnesota Opera, in a co-commission with Utah Symphony and Opera, will present The Grapes of Wrath, based on the Steinbeck classic novel. Music is composed by Ricky Ian Gordon with a libretto by Michael Korie. Fort Worth Opera will perform the world premiere of Frau Margot in June 2007, marking the return to opera of noted film composer Thomas Pasatieri.

The Opera Fund is a unique grant program supporting both the development of new works and the growth of new audiences,” stated composer Ricky Ian Gordon. “Working with The Minnesota Opera to engage the local community with The Grapes of Wrath has allowed me to connect with many people who otherwise might not be interested in attending opera. The Opera Fund plays a significant role in expanding opera audiences across North America.”

The Opera Fund, launched with support from The National Endowment for the Arts in 2001, has been funded thus far by the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James S. and John L. Knight Foundation, The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Lee Day Gillespie, and Lloyd and Mary Ann Gerlach.

Audience Development and Repertoire Development Award applications were reviewed by panelists from Canada and the United States. The panel evaluated projects based on the quality of the project concept, artistic merit, the strength of institutional partnerships, and the resources of the company, including the ability to fully evaluate the project. Audience Development Awards were evaluated on the additional criterion that the projects were an element of a well-integrated audience development effort that incorporates the full range of a company’s resources.

The final selection process was determined by two national panels. Panelists from Opera.ca included singer Valdine Anderson, composer Dean Burry, stage director François Racine, and Howard R. Jang of the Arts Club Theatre. Panelists reviewing proposals from the United States included opera company trustee Betty Brooks, education specialists Debra Evans and Laura Johnson, composer Diedre Murray, and conductor Anne Manson.

With a total of forty-four applications, the adjudication process was the most highly competitive in the program’s history. Applicants represented large and small opera companies, experienced commissioners and those commissioning for the first time, as well as new works laboratories. Several works are multicultural in their inspiration and outreach. Jazz, East Indian, and Native American styles are among the musical genres being incorporated into the new works.

Canadian Opera Creation Fund: Repertoire Development Awards
  • Manitoba Opera: Transit of Venus--$20,000 in support of workshop activities for Victor Davies and Maureen Hunter’s recently commissioned opera. The workshop will coincide with Opera.ca’s annual conference in Toronto.
  • Opera Ontario: Tyendinaga--$25,000 in support of further development of Tomas Dusatko and ElizaBeth Hill’s opera based on the life of Indian Chief Joseph Brant-Tyendinaga. Tyendinaga was previously awarded a Canadian Opera Creation Program Repertoire Development Award.
  • Queen of Puddings Music Theatre: Iñes de Toronto--$17,000 to support additional development and future workshops of James Rolfe and Paul Bentley’s intercultural Fado opera. The opera is being developed around the Toronto-based Portuguese/Canadian Fado singer Catarina Cardeaal.
  • Soundstreams Canada: Pimooteewin (The Journey)--$20,000 in support of the creation of a music drams based on the legend of the trickster in Cree mythology. The workshop will occur in November 2007 with the fully produced work premiering in February 2008.
  • Tapestry New Opera Works: Sanctuary Song--$15,000 to support the creation and production of Abigail Richardson and Marjorie Chan’s new work for young audiences about the relationship between an elderly elephant and her keeper.
  • Vancouver Opera: Lillian Alling—$20,000 in support of a full-length mainstage production based on the life of the Canadian historical figure of the same name. Lillian Alling will be premiered in 2010 as part of Vancouver Opera’s 50th Anniversary Season.
The Opera Fund: Audience Development Grants
  • The Atlanta Opera: Cold Sassy Tree--$18,000 in support of an effort to attract new audiences with particular efforts focused on ninth-grade Atlanta public school students. Composed by Carlisle Floyd, Cold Sassy Tree is on the high school suggested reading list in Georgia, the native state of the novel’s author, Olive Ann Burns.
  • Chicago Opera Theater: A Flowering Tree--$18,000 to support COT’s plans to collaborate with neighborhood East Indian cultural centers and the Art Institute of Chicago for a showcase of Indian art and culture. A Flowering Tree is based upon an East Indian folk tale and is composed by John Adams with a libretto by Peter Sellars.
  • Florentine Opera: Idiot’s Delight--$3,000 to support the design of an audience development project in conjunction with the world premiere production of composer William Bolcom and librettist Arnold Weinstein’s opera. Idiot’s Delight is based upon Robert Sherwood’s original play of the same name.
  • Florida Grand Opera: Anna Karenina--$20,000 in support of events surrounding the world premiere of David Carlson’s opera in April 2007. FGO will host an extensive “Anna Karenina Festival” of events which will include lectures, in-school performances, recitals, film retrospectives, backstage tours, and children and family events.
  • Los Angeles Opera: The Fly--$13,000 to support an integrated series of initiatives designed to appeal to Los Angeles’ community of young adults and professionals affiliated with the film and entertainment industry. The Fly is composed by Howard Shore with libretto with David Henry Hwang.
  • The Minnesota Opera: The Grapes of Wrath--$15,000 in support of a series of marketing and education initiatives to reach non-traditional audiences that may be attracted to the real-life experiential themes of this work. The Grapes of Wrath, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon with libretto by Michael Korie, will receive its world premiere in February 2007.
  • Nashville Opera: Elmer Gantry--$17,500 to support the second phase of the company’s New Audience/New Works Initiative, the goal of which is to develop projects that speak to the unique and diverse communities of Nashville. In connection with the world premiere of Robert Aldridge and Hershel Garfein’s opera, the company plans to engage the African-American community through various strategic partnerships with other organizations.
  • Opera Colorado: La Curandera--$7,000 to support low-cost, accessible opera experiences for families and communities that normally do not participate in Opera Colorado’s program. La Curandera, a bilingual opera composed by Robert Xavier Rodriguez with libretto by Mary Medrick, will be presented in community venues outside of the company’s usual school tours.
  • Opera Omaha: Blizzard Voices--$22,500 in support of a partnership between the company and the Omaha Children’s Museum to launch a 40-performance tour of an abridged version of Blizzard Voices, a new, staged opera cantata by Paul Moravec and U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser.
  • Opera Omaha: Wakonda’s Dream--$17,500 to support a “Wakonda’s Dream Festival”, a series of events complementing the world premiere of Anthony Davis and Yusef Komunyakaa’s opera about a Native American family struggling to find their place in contemporary society. The festival will include poetry readings by the librettist, programs on American Indian culture, and discussions with those involved in the project.
  • Opera Theater of Pittsburgh: The Sound of a Voice--$7,000 to support projects surrounding the company’s production of Philip Glass and David Henry Hwang’s opera. Project activities include seminars given by the composer, vocal master classes by the cast, and workshops given by founders of the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
  • The Santa Fe Opera: Tea: A Mirror of Soul--$17,500 in support of the “Festival of Tea” a series of events surrounding the American premiere of Tan Dun and Xu Ying’s opera in the summer of 2007. Events include a program of musical and theatrical performances, a film series, lectures, a panel discussion, and published materials, all relating to the opera.
  • Seattle Opera: Amelia--$4,000 to support the company’s effort to design an audience development project in conjunction with the production of Daron Hagen and Gardner McFall’s opera Amelia. The work is an exploration of the role that aviation has played in American history and aviation’s relationship with the human experience.

The Opera Fund’s 2008 Guidelines for Repertoire Development Awards will be available in July 2007, and will be made available to OPERA America Professional Company Members and their partners.


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