Login failed. Please try again.

Press Released: 15 Feb 2015

OPERA America Announces Recipients of The Opera Fund: Audience Development Grants

Eleven Opera Companies Receive a Total of $150,000 to Engage Audiences in New American Opera

OPERA America is pleased to announce it has awarded grants to 11 opera companies through its Opera Fund: Audience Development grant program, which promotes deep learning experiences about new or infrequently produced American operas and music-theater works. Each grant supports audience development activities associated with a specific work being produced by an OPERA America Professional Company Member.

A total of $150,000 has been awarded to the following 11 opera companies: Cincinnati Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera (New York, NY), Long Beach Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre (Detroit, MI), Minnesota Opera (Minneapolis, MN), Opera Saratoga, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Seattle Opera, Skylight Music Theatre (Milwaukee, WI) and Tulsa Opera.

“Supporting the creation of new American opera is central to OPERA America’s mission, yet for that new repertoire to thrive, we must also excite, engage and inform audiences,” stated OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca. “As the most recent group of grant awardees demonstrates, opera companies are pursuing increasingly diverse and innovative strategies to offer their communities entry points into opera. We are deeply grateful to The Opera Fund donors for making these crucial audience development activities possible.”

Applications for The Opera Fund’s Audience Development grants were reviewed by an independent panel consisting of Steven Osgood, conductor; Rebecca Ratzkin, senior consultant, WolfBrown; John Michael Schert, visiting artist and social entrepreneur, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (and co-founder of Trey McIntyre Project); Lisa Steindler, artistic director, Z Space; and Theodore Wiprud, vice president, education, the New York Philharmonic.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund endowment, allowing OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works through a number of grant programs. 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, as well as related audience development initiatives. Together with Building Opera Audiences grants, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, OPERA America implements a comprehensive strategy to expand, diversify and deepen opera audiences and the audience experience.

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.

2015 Audience Development Grant Recipients

Cincinnati Opera
Morning Star
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon
Librettist William M. Hoffman

In anticipation of its world premiere of Morning Star, which portrays a Russian-Jewish family adapting to life in the early 20th-century New York, Cincinnati Opera will create a series of programs to cultivate audiences. The grant will support three parts of this series: The Ricky Ian Gordon Songbook Concert, in which local singers will perform selections from Gordon’s works with the composer at the piano; a documentary film about the creation of Morning Star by Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers Julie Reichert and Steven Bognar; and Meet the Morning Star Creative Team, a forum in which the composer and librettist will speak about the creation of their opera.

Fort Worth Opera
Composer David T. Little
Librettist Royce Vavrek

Designed to reinforce the world premiere of JFK — an operatic work about the final hours of President John F. Kennedy’s life — Fort Worth Opera will launch JFK: Five Decades of Progress, an eight-month community engagement event series that will explore social progress from JFK’s inauguration in 1961 through the present day. Fort Worth Opera will partner with organizations throughout North Texas to produce events that highlight topics surrounding the piece, including the creative impetus behind the opera, the evolution and role of aeronautics in the United States, race and civil rights issues, and the evolution of political discourse in the media.

Gotham Chamber Opera
Charlie Parker’s Yardbird
Composer Daniel Schnyder
Librettist Bridgette A. Wimberly

In anticipation of the New York premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, Gotham Chamber Opera will present Charlie Parker in New York, a series of public events that will provide New Yorkers with access to the life and work of jazz legend Charlie Parker. Activities will include a symposium at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; a lecture at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; a walking tour of East Village sites associated with Parker, including his historic home; and a concert at a New York City jazz venue that will include excerpts from the opera and compositions by Parker.

Long Beach Opera
Hydrogen Jukebox
Composer Philip Glass
Librettist Allen Ginsberg

Long Beach Opera will partner with several local organizations and personalities on a series of events connected to its production of Hydrogen Jukebox, a kaleidoscopic retrospective of American counter-culture. Programs include a cultural monuments tour of downtown Los Angeles with Charles Phoenix; a matinee screening of the cult classic Easy Rider at the historic Art Theatre of Long Beach; and a meal with the opera’s director at a 1960s Los Angeles diner. LBO plans to target audiences that are interested in opera, theater, visual and performing arts, movies, and American history and politics.

Michigan Opera Theatre
Composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez
Librettists Hilary Blecher and Migdalia Cruz 

Michigan Opera Theatre will celebrate and promote the Michigan premiere of Frida through Community Opera Club events in 12 Southeastern Michigan communities. This is part of a pilot project to establish a permanent network of community-based clubs in association with MOT’s annual opera season. The goal is to create an informal, social and personal way to interest new people in opera, as well as encourage those who already love opera to become more deeply involved in supporting, promoting and learning about the art form.

Opera Omaha
The Shining
Composer Paul Moravec
Librettist Mark Campbell

As a part of its New Works Initiative, Minnesota Opera will present The Shining, a world premiere opera based on the 1977 novel by Stephen King. To demystify the process of creating opera, Minnesota Opera will host musicians of the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra at educational events and workshops associated with the opera. In addition, Minnesota Opera artists and staff will work with the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra to perform a piece from The Shining for local audiences.

Opera Saratoga
The Long Walk
Composer Jeremy Howard Beck
Librettist Stephanie Fleischmann

For the world premiere of The Long Walk, produced in partnership with commissioning organization American Lyric Theater, Opera Saratoga will present programming relating to the opera’s central character, a soldier and explosives expert who returns from Iraq. In collaboration with the New York State Military Museum and other community partners, Opera Saratoga will create programs that explore the highly topical issues of veteran reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorder and blast-induced traumatic brain injury, as well as the challenges faced by families of those who have served in the military.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Shalimar the Clown
Composer Jack Perla
Librettist Rajiv Joseph

In support of the world premiere of Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis will host a series of audience engagement events featuring author Salman Rushdie, composer Jack Perla, librettist Rajiv Joseph and tenor Sean Panikkar, as well as a variety of other artists. Engagement events will focus on the adaptation of an acclaimed novel into an opera, the changing face of contemporary opera, shifting global politics, and common themes of humanity across different ethnicities and religions.

Seattle Opera
An American Dream
Composer Jack Perla
Librettist Jessica Murphy Moo

The world premiere of An American Dream will be accompanied by programming inspired by the two Seattle women on whom the opera is based: Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, a Japanese-American author who was incarcerated as a young girl during World War II, and Marianne Weltmann, a Jewish-German opera singer whose family escaped Hitler’s Europe. To inform and enrich the performance experience for the audience, attendees have the opportunity to engage with the work and its stories through participatory activities, including tableaux vivants, theatrical vignettes, and conversations with the creative team and community members, before and after each performance.

Skylight Music Theatre
The Snow Dragon
Composer and librettist Somtow Sucharitkul

For its world premiere of The Snow Dragon, Skylight Music Theatre will organize a series of activities to engage new audiences, connect young adults with opera and deepen audiences’ understanding of the art form. Activities will include behind-the-scenes tours, artist talks and community discussions. Building upon interest in Sucharitkul as both a musical composer and writer of science fiction, the company will also host an “Operacon” science fiction convention to coincide with the opera’s opening weekend.

Tulsa Opera
Shining Brow
Composer Daron Aric Hagen
Librettist Paul Muldoon

The story behind Shining Brow will be explored through Art, Architecture, and Opera on the Prairie, a series of programs about the opera’s protagonist, Frank Lloyd Wright. Inspired by a symposium on Wright’s architectural presence in Oklahoma, Tulsa Opera will facilitate a discussion between the opera’s composer and a group of art enthusiasts, architecture students and Tulsa Young Professionals. After this event, the company will carry out a social media effort to maintain awareness of the arts. Tulsa Opera also plans to strengthen its relationship with Philbrook Museum of Art in order to explore artistic themes relevant to the opera.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

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