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Press Released: 01 May 2015

OPERA America Announces Details for Opera Conference 2015: Increasing Civic Impact

May 6–9 in Washington, D.C.

Hosted by Washington National Opera In Association with Opera Volunteers International

Five Sessions of Field-Wide Impact to be Streamed Live at conference.operaamerica.org/Live

2015 New York Area Opera Producers Symposium Convenes at The National Opera Center on May 8 and 9 in Conjunction with Opera Conference 2015

OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce details of Opera Conference 2015: Increasing Civic Impact, to be held in Washington, D.C. from May 6–9 and hosted by Washington National Opera, in association with Opera Volunteers International. This largest annual gathering of opera professionals in North America will convene at the Washington Marriott Georgetown and venues throughout the metro area. This marks the first time in 20 years the conference will be held in the nation’s capital.

With more than 500 industry leaders in attendance, OPERA America’s annual conference presents a unique opportunity to examine issues affecting the opera community from a variety of perspectives. With the theme Increasing Civic Impact, conference attendees will explore how opera companies and artists can address community priorities and forge beneficial relationships across the cities they serve.

Opera Conference 2015 Highlights

Topics planned for opera conference attendees cover all facets of the art form and address the concerns of creators, administrators, trustees and supporters. Highlights of the many conference-wide sessions, performances and showcases include:

  • Opera Advocacy Day provides attendees with hands-on training before they meet with legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate directly on behalf of the opera industry;

  • The Opening Session features discussion with Roberto Bedoya of the Tucson Pima Arts Council and renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves-Montgomery;

  • General Session: Reshaping Arts Organizations features presentations from executives from allied cultural fields about expanding institutional missions and adapting organizational structures to increase civic impact;

  • With introduction from NEA Chairman Jane Chu, the General Session titled Civic Health: The Intersection of Opera and Society explores research-based approaches taken by institutions to strengthen communities and engage publics;

  • General Session: Saturday Keynote features remarks from opera devotee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States;

  • A Partnership Panel Discussion and Performance presentation by Opera Lafayette at the historic Cosmos Club examines strategies for building artistic partnerships that increase community involvement through masterpieces from the 17th to early 19th centuries;

  • The New Works Forum, which nurtures more informed opera producers and creators, and establishes stronger relationships among them;

  • The Singer Training Forum, for those who are dedicated to the identification and development of aspiring singers;

  • The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase offers production presentations from promising young directors and designers;

  • The New Works Sampler, with performances of works in progress and recent premieres, to take place at The Barns at Wolf Trap; and

  • Washington National Opera’s dress rehearsal and opening night performance of Rossini’s Cinderella, with Isabel Leonard in the title role.

Thirty Open Sessions provide conference attendees with valuable and practical information in specific administrative areas, including marketing, fundraising, governance, artistic planning, education and audience engagement. For the fourth straight year, the conference is presented in association with Opera Volunteers International. A special track of sessions for volunteers will address the important role that volunteerism plays in success of opera companies.

“We are delighted to bring our annual conference to Washington, D.C., OPERA America’s original home city, after a 20 year absence,” stated OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca. “Our nation’s capital provides an ideal stage to explore the theme of civic impact, to advocate for the arts, and to forge practices and partnerships that address communities’ needs,” he continued.

Live Streaming
The innovative thinking and valuable tools gained during Opera Conference 2015 are not limited to those able to travel to Washington, D.C. Select sessions will be streamed live on OPERA America’s website at conference.operaamerica.org/Live and later archived on the organization’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/OPERAAmerica). Conference attendees and live stream viewers are encouraged to interact and share highlights on Twitter with #OperaConf.

Sessions streaming live from Washington, D.C. at conference.operaamerica.org/Live are:

  • Opening Session | Thursday, May 7, 9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. EDT
  • The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase | Thursday, May 7, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. EDT
  • New Works Sampler | Friday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. EDT
  • Civic Health: The Intersection of Opera and Society | Saturday, May 9, 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. EDT
  • Saturday Keynote | Saturday, May 9, 2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

See the Programming Details attachment for additional Opera Conference 2015 session and event information.

2015 New York Area Opera Producers Symposium
On Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, OPERA America and the New York Opera Alliance will host the 2015 New York Area Opera Producers Symposium at the National Opera Center in New York City, in conjunction with Opera Conference 2015. This professional development and networking event gathers together the region’s opera-makers in specialized discussions. Attendees will contribute to field-wide dialogues on new work development and community engagement, learn branding and fundraising strategies, share practices, and discover opportunities for collaboration in New York City. Symposium attendees will also participate in the Opera Conference 2015 activities by viewing the live-streamed sessions, followed by discussion. The Symposium is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

OPERA America gratefully acknowledges the support of the following Opera Conference 2015 sponsors:

  • Act 1 Tours
  • American Express Foundation
  • Arts Consulting Group
  • The Arts Insurance Program, LLC
  • Bank of America
  • Comnet Marketing Group Inc.
  • Deloitte
  • EventEQ
  • Fisher Dachs Associates
  • The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation
  • IMG Artists
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Music Publishers Association
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Quarterline Design Management
  • Schuler Shook
  • SD&A Teleservices, Inc.
  • The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund
  • Threshold Acoustics
  • TRG Arts
  • Truck’N Roll
  • The Wallace Foundation

Follow the conference conversation on social media with #OperaConf and @OPERAAmerica.

Watch live-streamed conference sessions at conference.operaamerica.org/Live.

Conference Program Details

For more information, visit the online schedule or see the program book.

Opera Advocacy Day
With the conference taking place in the nation’s capital for the first time in 20 years, OPERA America will convene the first-ever Opera Advocacy Day on May 6. Attendees will have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the arts as members of the 114th Congress take office, and they will represent opera on a range of issues, including support for the National Endowment for the Arts, preservation of charitable giving incentives and quick visa processing for foreign guest artists. Advocates will attend briefing and training sessions in the morning, followed by afternoon appointments with legislators.

General Sessions
General Sessions bring together the entire conference constituency to explore topics that affect all aspects of the opera field. These sessions include:

  • Opening Session: Opera Conference 2015 will kick off with a welcome from Francesca Zambello, artistic director of Washington National Opera, Frayda B. Lindemann, Ph.D., OPERA America’s board chairman, and Rhonda Sweeney, president, Opera Volunteers International. Marc A. Scorca, OPERA America’s president/CEO, will present strategic context for increasing opera’s civic impact and invite renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves-Montgomery to share her perspective on the power of opera to change lives and strengthen communities. The session will close with insightful keynote remarks from Roberto Bedoya, executive director, Tucson Pima Arts Council, that will launch field-wide discussion throughout the conference and beyond.
  • Reshaping Arts Organizations: Philip Kennicott, the Pulitzer Prize-winning art and architecture critic from The Washington Post, will lead a discussion with executives from other cultural fields about how their institutions have expanded their missions and adapted their organizational structures to increase civic impact. Find out what the opera field can glean from these experiences to further shape the role of opera in local communities. Speakers include Edmund Fleet, executive director, Building Bridges Across the River; Elizabeth Merritt, founding director, Center for the Future of Museums; Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director, D.C. Public Library; and Deborah F. Rutter, president, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Civic Health: The Intersection of Opera and Society: Raising the quality of life is a shared goal among city officials, arts leaders and the general public. National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu will set the stage for presentations from leaders at the forefront of learning how communities are made stronger through more civically minded institutions and engaged publics. Hear how these research-based approaches underscore the role for opera in motivating participation in society and enhancing civic life. Speakers include David Fraher, president and CEO, Arts Midwest; Jason Schupbach, director of design programs, the National Endowment for the Arts; Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO, OPERA America; and Ilir Zherka, executive director, National Conference on Citizenship.
  • Saturday Keynote: Opera devotee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, will deliver highly anticipated remarks, followed by reflections from Roberto Bedoya, executive director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Bedoya, joined by OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca, will summarize themes that emerged throughout the conference and suggest actions for the field. The host of Opera Conference 2016 will then extend an invitation to one of North America’s most beautiful cities

Open Sessions
Thirty open sessions will be offered over the course of Opera Conference 2015, addressing the needs of staff, trustees, volunteers and other industry professionals. These sessions cover topics such as artistic administration, artist training and management, development, finance, marketing, public relations, volunteerism and technical/production. These sessions are:

  • Affordable Care Act Compliance Workshop
  • Artistic Policies Linked to Civic Impact
  • Backed by Education Research: A Case for Opera’s Civic Impact
  • Board Orientation and Transition Planning
  • Charting the Waters of Retirement Plan Regulation
  • (Civic) Impact on Fundraising
  • Electronic Media Agreement Update
  • Families in the House
  • Grassroots Fundraising
  • Increasing Civic Impact: Structural and Branding Opportunities
  • Internal Metrics for Civic Impact
  • Marketing Strategy for a New Age
  • New Generations of Donor Engagement
  • Opera’s Audiences: Exciting Ideas
  • Public Speaking Skills Workshop
  • Reflections on Civic Impact
  • The Road to Results
  • Sensory-Friendly Performances
  • Sharing and Caring: Practices in Lending Production Pieces
  • Spotlight: Arts Education Updates from the NEA
  • Spotlight: Lean Performing Arts: Startups and New Sustainable Projects
  • Spotlight: Lunchtime Development Tips
  • Spotlight: Opera Teens
  • Spotlight: A Perspective on Turnarounds with Ryan Taylor
  • Spotlight: Q&A with David Fraher
  • Strategic Governance
  • Strategies for Telefunding
  • Time Management Skills Workshops
  • Women in Arts Leadership
  • Young Artist Auditions

Conference seminars offer the opportunity for attendees to delve into a specific topic in a hands-on workshop environment (additional $75 fee). Opera Conference 2015 seminars include:

  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Planned Giving
  • Taking Charge of Your Message

Networks and Forums
As part of its efforts to identify and respond to challenges facing opera professionals, OPERA America maintains a number of specialized networks and Forums to advance understanding in specific areas of the field. Several of these groups will meet during the conference, including:

  • Development
  • Education and Community Engagement
  • Finance, Administration and Human Resources
  • Marketing/Public Relations
  • New Works Forum
  • Singer Training Forum
  • Technical/Production
  • Trustees

Leadership Intensive
Generously supported by the American Express Foundation, the Leadership Intensive identifies the most promising emerging leaders in the field of opera administration and provides them with the skills and contacts needed to advance their careers. This year, Leadership Intensive alumni from 2012–2014 will convene at conference for group discussions and workshops.

New General Directors Roundtable
The New General Directors Roundtable is a peer learning group consisting of recent appointees to their first general director or chief staff officer positions at companies with budgets between $1 million and $5 million. Through facilitated discussion and formal presentations, OPERA America responds to the needs articulated by participants, including strategy formulation, staff management, board relations and work/life balance.

New Works Sampler
OPERA America’s New Works Sampler, to be held at The Barns at Wolf Trap, is an evening of works in progress and recent premieres. The performances represent the wide spectrum of musical styles employed by today’s emerging and established composers. Selections include:

  • Bhutto
    Mohammed Fairouz, composer and co-librettist | Mohammed Hanif, librettist
    Produced by Beth Morrison Projects
  • Ivonne from Ghosts of Crosstown
    Nathaniel Stookey, composer | Jerre Dye, librettist
    Produced by Opera Memphis
  • An American Dream
    Jack Perla, composer | Jessica Murphy Moo, librettist
    Produced by Seattle Opera
  • Cuentos de Peregrinación
    Héctor Armienta, composer and librettist
    Produced by Opera Cultura
  • Becoming Santa Claus
    Mark Adamo, composer and librettist
    Submitted by G. Schirmer, Inc.
    Produced by The Dallas Opera

In conjunction with the New Works Sampler, Wolf Trap Opera will present excerpts from John Musto and Mark Campbell’s Volpone, and UrbanArias will present excerpts from Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi’s Blue Viola. The New Works Sampler is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase
The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase, made possible by a generous grant from the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, is a biennial competition that identifies emerging director-designer teams, each of which has developed a production proposal for an American opera. Both in person and through the live stream, attendees will see the four winning production presentations and meet the artists who created them.

Washington National Opera’s Cinderella
Conference attendees will have the chance to observe the final dress rehearsal of Washington National Opera’s Cinderella, and they may also attend the opening night performance on May 9. Rossini’s retelling of the Cinderella story adds a few twists to the classic in a production featuring mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, the 2013 Richard Tucker award winner.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.