Press Released: 22 Jan 2013

OPERA America Awards Grants to Opera Organizations and Artists

$225,000 in Opera Fund: Repertoire Development Grants Awarded to Ten Opera Companies

Four Artist Teams Selected as Finalists in the 2013 Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase

OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, is pleased to announce that it has awarded grants to 10 opera companies and four teams of artists through two funding programs: The Opera Fund: Repertoire Development and the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase. These grants support the production of new North American opera and help develop the careers of promising directors and designers, respectively.

“Fostering the creation of new works by American composers is a cornerstone of OPERA America’s mission,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO. “Through the generosity of Opera Fund donors, Repertoire Development grants assist in increasing the vitality and diversity of our art form,” he continued.

The Opera Fund: Repertoire Development

Over the past 20 years, OPERA America’s Opera Fund has provided grants totaling more than $11 million to assist companies with the creation and development of works such as Akhnaten (Philip Glass), Cold Sassy Tree (Carlisle Floyd), Dead Man Walking (Jake Heggie), Elmer Gantry (Robert Aldridge), Frau Margot (Thomas Pasatieri), Little Women (Mark Adamo), Margaret Garner (Richard Danielpour), Nixon in China (John Adams), Shining Brow (Daron Hagen) and A Streetcar Named Desire (André Previn).

Repertoire Development grants of The Opera Fund assist OPERA America Professional Company Members (PCMs) and their partners in meeting the special costs incurred by developing and producing new North American opera and music-theater. Repertoire Development grants allow the creators and/or producers to assess and refine a work in progress. The grants may be used to offset creative fees, recording expenditures for evaluation and archival purposes or other costs associated with the development of a new opera/music-theater work, including lab productions, workshops, readings and revisions.

A total of $225,000 was awarded in Repertoire Development Grants to the following organizations:

American Lyric Theater
The Long Walk
Composer Jeremy Howard Beck
Librettist Stephanie Fleischmann
$15,000

The opera is based on Brian Castner's critically acclaimed memoir, The Long Walk, which describes a soldier’s return from Iraq where he served as an officer in an explosive ordnance disposal unit; and his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder as he tries to integrate himself back into his family life upon his return from the war. Funds will be used to help underwrite the direct expense of a developmental workshop, planned for May-June 2013, as well as a portion of the work’s commission fees.

American Lyric Theater
La Reina
Composer Jorge Sosa
Librettist Laura Sosa Pedroza
$15,000

Between May 20 and June 2, 2013, American Lyric Theater (New York, NY) will hold a developmental workshop of the complete piano/electronics/vocal score of La Reina, by composer Jorge Sosa and librettist Laura Sosa Pedroza. La Reina is an electro-acoustic opera with text in Spanish and English. The docufiction narrative was inspired by the life of Sinaloan drug trafficker Sandra Avila Beltran, who was arrested in 2007. Funds will be used to help underwrite developmental workshop expenses, and a portion of the work’s commission fees.

The Dallas Opera
Great Scott
Composer Jake Heggie
Librettist Terrence McNally
$27,000

Money will support the commissioning fees and a workshop of Great Scott, scheduled to premiere in the company’s 2015-2016 season. Great Scott is a comic opera whose story will focus on the backstage complications that develop when Arden Scott, a great opera singer, returns to her hometown to sing her signature role. The action takes place onstage and behind-the-scenes as she deals with a co-star she detests and the demands of friends and family as she sings her famous role in the forgotten bel canto opera, Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei. Further chaos ensues in the opera’s two mad scenes, volcanic eruption and children’s chorus, as well as in Arden’s own life.

Florentine Opera
Sister Carrie
Composer Robert Aldridge
Librettist Herschel Garfein
$20,000

In consortium with University of Minnesota Opera Theatre, Florentine Opera (Milwaukee, WI) will workshop Sister Carrie, adapted from the novel of the same name by Theodore Dreiser. The opera follows the flight of the title character from the tedium of her rural Midwestern upbringing to the possibilities of the big city, fraught as urban life is with "the grimness of shift and toil." The grant will fund a series of workshops, participant reviews and audience feedback performances in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014.

The Glimmerglass Festival
the little match girl passion
Composer/Librettist David Lang
$13,000

The Glimmerglass Festival (Cooperstown, NY) is presenting David Lang’s the little match girl passion during the 2013 season. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2008, match girl was originally scored for four soloists and an adult chamber choir. Glimmerglass is commissioning Lang to write a new 24-voice children’s chorus to replace the adult choir. As part of this revision, Lang will also compose a prologue for the children. Lang’s opera is derived from the Hans Christian Andersen tale and inspired by Bach's St. Matthew Passion. The revision will also continue and evolve the company's recent commitment to involve children in at least one main stage production annually.

Minnesota Opera
The Manchurian Candidate
Composer Kevin Puts
Librettist Mark Campbell
$27,000

The grant will help to cover the costs for workshops, travel for the artistic team, defray commissioning fees for the composer and librettist, and for the copying of vocal/piano scores and orchestral parts. The opera is an adaptation of the novel and 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate.

Music-Theatre Group (Brooklyn, NY)
The Doctor and the Devils
Composer Julian Grant
Librettist Mark Campbell
$25,000

Funds will be used to support a libretto reading and first music workshop, to be completed by the end of calendar 2013. The opera is being adapted from a screenplay by Dylan Thomas with the same title. The work is a beautifully structured story full of intrigues and moral dilemmas that are operatic in scope and style. Based on the legendary case of Knox and Burke, the opera follows the driven Dr. Rock (Knox), distinguished surgeon at the Royal Academy in Edinburgh, who in pursuit of his anatomical discoveries requires a steady flow of cadavers.

Opera Colorado
The Scarlet Letter
Composer Lori Laitman
Librettist David Mason
$13,000

Opera Colorado has asked Lori Laitman to write a reduced one-act, one-hour version of the full-length opera for educational and touring performances. In preparation for the touring performances, Opera Colorado plans to present two semi-staged readings of the work at unexpected locations in the Denver Metro Area. The readings will focus on testing the effectiveness of the one-hour work and to allow composer Lori Laitman to make adjustments to the score prior to the tour.

Opera Memphis
Ghosts of Crosstown
Composer Kamran Ince, et al. and Voices of the South
$27,000

The grant will be used to commission and workshop a collection of short operas under the title Ghosts of Crosstown. These site-specific pieces will center on the Sears Crosstown building — an exquisite Art Deco building, which opened in Memphis in 1927. Sears Crosstown was a vibrant shopping center for more than 50 years, but it fell into disuse in 1993. Today, a group of dedicated residents are resurrecting this vacant space as a mixed-use "vertical urban village." Opera Memphis will commission original compositions to perform in conjunction with this effort.

Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA)
Gesualdo, Prince of Madness
Composer Dante De Silva
Librettist Mitchell Morris
$16,000

The work is to be a two-act opera titled Castle Gesualdo that will examine the “flexible” nature of justice through the figure of Carlo Gesualdo, a 16th-century composer accused of murder who escaped prosecution because of his noble status. Gesualdo, a daring composer of his time (1566-1613), will lend his chromatic language to the fabric of the new score. Lute, theorbo and a female chorus will blend with modern instruments in the orchestra. The grant will support the completion and revisions of the piano-vocal score and a public interactive reading session in June 2013.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
27
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon
Librettist Michale Korie
$27,000

The grant will support the commission and the production of musical materials for 27, which tells the story of the time Gertrude Stein spent in Paris between World Wars I and II. The opera’s title — 27 — reflects the address of her famous Parisian salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus. The opera will be written in two short acts and accompanied by a chamber-sized orchestra. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe will perform the role of Gertrude Stein.

Recipients of the Repertoire Development grants were selected by a panel of industry leaders, including Mark Adamo, composer; Michael Barrett, associate artistic director of the New York Festival of Song; Bruce Garnett, director; Dorothy Byrne, mezzo-soprano; Mark Campbell, librettist; and Laura Kaminsky, composer and artistic director of Symphony Space.

The Opera Fund was launched by The National Endowment for the Arts, and 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 James S. and John K. Knight Foundation and the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation.

Note: Reflecting his role as both panelist and librettist, Mark Campbell did not participate in the discussion and evaluation of the projects for which he is the librettist.

The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase

OPERA America’s bi-annual Director-Designer Showcase, made possible by the generosity of The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, brings new talent to the forefront and is intended to connect promising directors and designers with those who are in a position to advance their careers.

Twenty-seven applicant teams of directors and designers created production concepts for an American opera, chosen from a diverse, curated list. As part of the application process, each team submitted a production concept, including an explanation of the staging; ideas and initial research for scenery, props and costumes; required personnel; and suggestions for adaptations and/or editing, if any.

Each team will be given $2,000 to be used toward further research and the production of more comprehensive renderings and models. The teams will also be mentored by one of the panelists as the final presentations are prepared. Up to two representatives from each finalist team will receive travel, lodging and registration to attend Opera Conference 2013 in Vancouver, B.C., in May 2013 to present their proposals to opera producers at a special session and to network with conference attendees.

The 2012-2013 Director-Designer Showcase finalist teams are:

George Cederquist, director
Marianna Csaszar, set and costume designer
Sarah Hughey, lighting designer

Silent Night (Kevin Puts/Mark Campbell)

Stephanie Havey, director
Patrick Rizzotti, set designer
Megan Spatz, costume designer
Brandon Mitchell, lighting designer

Elmer Gantry (Robert Aldridge/Herschel Garfein)

Walker Lewis, director
David Meyer, set designer
Grace Trimble, costume designer

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht)

Mo Zhou, director
Tim Brown, set designer
Lisa Loen, costume designer
Yi Zhao, lighting designer

Susannah (Carlisle Floyd):

As opera is an intrinsically collaborative art form, the projects chosen were selected not only because they demonstrate the requisite creativity and skill, but because they displayed true collaboration, creative vibrancy and collective passion.

The four finalist teams were selected by panelists David B. Devan, general director, Opera Company of Philadelphia; Jane Greenwood, designer; Sam Helfrich, stage director; and Kurt Howard, producing director, Fort Worth Opera.

“OPERA America is uniquely positioned as the field’s convener and connector to advance the careers of the most talented creative artists,” stated Scorca. “The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase enables us to support the career development of stage directors and designers and, through them, further the artistic development of the opera form.”

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