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Press Released: 14 Apr 2016

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

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.

2016 Repertoire Development Grant Recipients

American Lyric Theater
La Reina
Composer/librettist Jorge Sosa
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.

Beth Morrison Projects
Ellen West
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon
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.

Cincinnati Opera
Fellow Travelers
Composer Gregory Spears
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.

The Dallas Opera
Title to be announced

Details to be announced

Composer Ellen Reid
Librettist Roxie Perkins

Produced by PROTOTYPE Festival (a co-production of Beth Morrison Projects and HERE) in association 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.

Nashville Opera
Three Way
Composer Robert Paterson
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.

Opera Memphis
By/In Memphis
Composers Robert Paterson, Marco Pavé, Kamala Sankaram, Sam Shoup and one additional collaborator to be determined
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.

Opera Parallèle
Today It Rains
Composer Laura Kaminsky
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.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
The Grapes of Wrath
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon
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 on OPERA America, visit About Us.

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