OPERA America Announces Details for Opera Conference 2017: Creating Collaborative Change
May 4–8 in Dallas, TX
Hosted by The Dallas Opera In Association with Opera Volunteers International
Four Sessions of Field-Wide Impact to be Streamed Live at conference.operaamerica.org/Live
Day Passes Available to Local Residents
OPERA America, the national service organization for opera and the nation’s leading champion for American opera, is pleased to announce details of Opera Conference 2017: Creating Collaborative Change, to be held in Dallas, TX, from May 4–8. Hosted by The Dallas Opera in association with Opera Volunteers International, this annual gathering of opera professionals — the largest in North America — will convene at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel and venues throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This is the third time in OPERA America’s 47-year history and the first time since 1987 that the conference will be held in Dallas.
With nearly 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. At Opera Conference 2017, attendees will work to ensure the future health and vitality of the opera industry by learning to increase collaboration among opera companies, was well as with other community organizations and stakeholders.
At the core of the opera industry are artists: singers, composers, librettists, designers, directors and conductors. Opera Conference 2017 places artists at the center of the discussion, providing a platform to express their visions for the field and creating opportunities for collaborative planning between artists and producers. The Opening Session features a panel of some of the most innovative and compelling creators in the field today: Mark Campbell, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer; Elaine McCarthy, projection designer; Nicole Paiement, principal guest conductor, The Dallas Opera; Kamala Sankaram, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist; Yuval Sharon, stage director; and Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor. At the Closing Session, bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green will speak about the people who intervened early in his life, helping him overcome obstacles to become a celebrated opera singer.
“We’re delighted to bring our annual conference back to the great city of Dallas for the first time in 30 years, and we are profoundly grateful to our hosts at The Dallas Opera for their partnership,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “We are eager for our members to experience Dallas’ Arts District, the Winspear Opera House and a tremendous variety of Dallas Opera productions. Together with leaders of many of Dallas’ cultural institutions, we’ll consider how the arts strengthen communities — not only through inspirational programming in theaters, but also in relation to school partnerships, public programs, economic development and civic identity.”
Opera Conference 2017 Highlights
Topics planned for opera conference attendees cover all facets of opera production and address the concerns of creators, administrators, trustees and supporters. Highlights of the many sessions, performances and showcases include:
These conference-wide sessions bring together the broad constituency to explore topics that affect the entire opera field, and beyond:
- Opening Session
Following welcome remarks, attendees will hear from artists who are at the center of our current and future work: Mark Campbell, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer; Elaine McCarthy, projection designer; Nicole Paiement, principal guest conductor, The Dallas Opera, and artistic director, Opera Parallèle; Kamala Sankaram, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist; Yuval Sharon, stage director, and artistic director, The Industry; and Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor.
- Partnership in Play: The Dallas Arts District
Home to the largest contiguous urban arts district in the U.S., Dallas is an example of the power of partnership to elevate a city’s creative and educational life. Attendees will hear from the leaders of The Dallas Opera, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Theater Center, Nasher Sculpture Center and Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
- Creating Change: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Attendees will hear presentations from experts in other arts disciplines and sectors who have made strides to improve equity within organizations and their communities; and learn from opera leaders about the steps the field can take on these vital issues.
- Closing Session
Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, whose life was chronicled in the recent book Sing for Your Life, will share his experiences in overcoming obstacles to become an acclaimed opera singer.
Think Tank, Toolbox and Spotlight Sessions
More than 30 sessions, designed to provide in-depth discussion and develop practical skills, are planned for attendees in areas of marketing, fundraising, governance, artistic planning, education and audience engagement.
Four intensive, half-day, skill-building workshops are offered on topics such as planning and preparing for large-scale fundraising initiatives; working to change societal injustices; increasing fluency in opera and communicating about opera; and exploring tactics for creating compelling video content.
Threaded throughout the conference in sessions geared toward a range of networks are learning themes of great importance to the field: Connecting Traditional and New Repertoire to Today’s Audiences; Effective Collaborations and Partnerships; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and Leadership by Experimentation and Learning.
New Works Forum
OPERA America’s long-standing commitment to supporting the creation and presentation of new works led to the establishment of the New Works Forum, which meets twice each year. Conference sessions will offer insight, practical knowledge and networking opportunities for creators and producers of new opera and music-theater works. Topics to be covered include the role of dramaturgs, family opera and repertoire that addresses contemporary issues.
Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase
Finalists of OPERA America’s biennial competition for emerging director-designer teams will present their winning production concepts.
Conference attendees will attend a wide array of performances in both Dallas and Fort Worth. The Dallas Opera productions include Arjuna’s Dilemma (Douglas J. Cuomo), Everest (Joby Talbot/Gene Scheer), preceded by the world premiere of Talbot’s Everest Prelude, Norma (Bellini) and The Magic Piano, an animated film featuring a live piano performance by Derek Wang.
Fort Worth Opera presents its annual Frontiers showcase of excerpts from eight new works, Voir Dire (Matthew Peterson/Jason Zencka), Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (José “Pepe” Martínez/Leonard Foglia) and Carmen (Bizet).
For the sixth 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.
Opera Conference 2017 attendees will hear from over 100 leading experts in opera, the performing arts and the cultural and business sectors. Among those who will be providing insight, knowledge and practical skills are:
- Ann Meier Baker, Director of Music and Opera, National Endowment for the Arts
- Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Affairs Manager, City of Oakland
- LeAnn Binford, Director, Big Thought Institute
- Mark Campbell, librettist
- Tassio Carvalho, Senior Manager, Operations Research and Advanced Analytics, American Airlines
- Keith Cerny, Kern Wildenthal General Director & CEO, The Dallas Opera
- Doug Curtis, President & CEO, AT&T Performing Arts Center
- Zenetta Drew, Executive Director, Dallas Black Dance Theatre
- Elisabeth Galley, Vice President, Arts Consulting Group
- Erik Gensler, Founder, Capacity Interactive
- Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone
- Jake Heggie, composer
- Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Senior Music Critic, theaterjones.com
- Jonathan Martin, President and CEO, Dallas Symphony Orchestra
- Elaine McCarthy, projection designer
- Keryl McCord, Founder and CEO, The Equity Quotient
- David McIntosh, Founder and President, Creative Business Breakthroughs
- Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director, Dallas Theater Center
- Nkeiru Okoye, composer
- Timothy O'Leary, General Director, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
- Nicole Paiement, principal guest conductor, The Dallas Opera; artistic director, Opera Parallèle
- Michelle Ramos, Project Director, Vera Institute of Justice
- Kamala Sankaram, composer
- Gene Scheer, librettist
- Marc A. Scorca, President/CEO, OPERA America
- Yuval Sharon, stage director, and artistic director, The Industry
- L. Michelle Smith, Director, AT&T Global Marketing Organization
- Jeremy Strick, Director, Nasher Sculpture Center
- Zannie Voss, Director, National Center for Arts Research
- Ann M. Williams, Founder and Artistic Advisor, Dallas Black Dance Theatre
- Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor
“Everyone at The Dallas Opera — myself included — is thrilled to be hosting next week’s Opera Conference 2017, and we are tremendously grateful to Marc Scorca and OPERA America for this marvelous opportunity,” stated Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. “In addition to directing the opera world’s attention to the extraordinary Dallas Arts District, including the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, this year’s theme seems especially fitting in a city where change and experimentation are the norm.”
“Hosting the conference has also given me the enjoyable opportunity of adding special programming that demonstrates TDO’s ability to perform a wide range of musical styles at a very high standard,” Cerny added, “even as it showcases our continuing commitment to incorporating state-of-the-art technologies —especially projections — into our productions, simulcasts and commissions.”
The innovative thinking and valuable tools gained during Opera Conference 2017 are not limited to those able to travel to Dallas. 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 social media with #OperaConf.
Sessions streaming live from Dallas at conference.operaamerica.org/Live are:
- Opening Session, Friday, May 5, 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. CDT
- Creating Change: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Saturday, May 6, 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. CDT
- Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase, Saturday, May 6, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. CDT
- Closing Session, Monday, May 8, 12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. CDT
Full Conference and Local Pass Registration
Full conference registration will be available on-site, and attendance is open to anyone interested in opera and the performing arts.
Those in the Dallas area who would like to experience select session highlights at Opera Conference 2017 can take advantage of the Local Pass ($65 per day). The Local Pass provides entry to an array of sessions taking place each day on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6.
To register on-site for the full conference or the Local Pass, please visit the Registration Desk in the Live Oak room of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, located at 400 North Olive Street.
OPERA America gratefully acknowledges the support of the following Opera Conference 2017 sponsors:
- Act 1 Tours
- ADA Artist Management
- American Express Foundation
- Arts Consulting Group
- Bank of America
- Capacity Interactive
- Fisher Dachs Associates
- Genovese, Vanderhoof & Associates
- The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation
- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
- Music Publishers Association
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Patron Technology
- Robert Swaney Consulting
- Schuler Shook
- SD&A Teleservices Inc.
- Stingray Classica
- Threshold Acoustics
- The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund
- 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
Below are additional details about highlights of Opera Conference 2017.
For more information, visit the online schedule or see the program book.
General Sessions bring together the broad constituency to explore topics that affect all aspects of the opera field:
- Opening Session
Opera Conference 2017 will kick off with opening remarks from Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America, along with warm welcomes from Ann Meier Baker, director of music and opera at the National Endowment for the Arts; Keith Cerny, general director and CEO of The Dallas Opera; Timothy O’Leary, general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and Rhonda Sweeney, president of Opera Volunteers International. Hear from artists who are shaping our art form through their cooperative work: Mark Campbell, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer; Elaine McCarthy, projection designer; Nicole Paiement, principal guest conductor, The Dallas Opera, and artistic director, Opera Parallèle; Kamala Sankaram, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist; Yuval Sharon, stage director, and artistic director, The Industry; Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor.
- Partnership in Play: The Dallas Arts District
The Dallas Arts District, as the largest contiguous urban arts district in the U.S., is a prime example of the power of partnership to elevate a city’s creative and educational life. Hear from Dallas’ arts leaders about how the partnership influences their organizational impact, while exploring benefits and realities of coordinated efforts for community development. Featuring Keith Cerny, general director and CEO, The Dallas Opera; Doug Curtis, president & CEO, AT&T Performing Arts Center; Jonathan Martin, president and CEO, Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Kevin Moriarty, artistic director, Dallas Theater Center; Jeremy Strick, director, Nasher Sculpture Center; Ann M. Williams, founder and artistic advisor, Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
- Creating Change: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
With humble curiosity, the opera field will gather in this session to hear presentations from experts in other arts disciplines and sectors who have made strides to improve equity within their organizations and their communities. Following these lightning talks, opera practitioners who have demonstrated leadership in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) respond and give voice to the steps that the opera field can take. Featuring Roberto Bedoya, cultural affairs manager, City of Oakland; Zenetta S. Drew, executive director, Dallas Black Dance Theatre; Brandon Gryde, director of government affairs, OPERA America; Cayenne Harris, Lyric Unlimited director, Lyric Opera of Chicago; Anh Le, publications and brand manager, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; David Lomeli, assistant artistic administrator and special projects, The Dallas Opera; Keryl McCord, founder and CEO, The Equity Quotient; Kevin Moriarty, artistic director, Dallas Theater Center; L. Michelle Smith, director, AT&T Global Marketing Organization.
- Closing Session
Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, whose life was chronicled in the recent book Sing for Your Life, will share his experiences in overcoming obstacles to become an acclaimed opera singer. Timothy O’Leary, board chairman of OPERA America, will offer reflections on Opera Conference 2017 and will extend an invitation to next year’s annual gathering in Saint Louis. Attendees will join O’Leary and Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America, in thanking The Dallas Opera for their service to the field.
In addition to the general sessions, attendees will choose form more than 30 additional sessions over the course of Opera Conference 2017. Sessions address the needs of staff, trustees, volunteers and other industry professionals; some focus on specific areas of practice, such as artistic administration, artist training and management, development, finance, marketing, public relations, volunteerism and technical/production, while others foster cross-network dialogue.
This year’s sessions fall into three categories: Spotlights, which highlight specific company practices and other programs; Think Tanks, which explore issues of field-wide importance in depth; and Toolboxes, which are designed to develop practical skills for opera practitioners. These sessions are:
- 30 Ideas in 90 Minutes: How to Get More Money from Individuals
- Achieving Liquidity
- Arts Policy and Effective Advocacy
- Board Committees Designed for Success
- Case Studies: Independent Artists Developing New Works
- Change Management for Opera Companies
- Collaborative Singer Training: Voice Teachers
- Collective Impact
- Composition in the Board Room, Too
- Co-Production Marketplace
- Creating the Training Through-Line: Singers and Pianists as Citizen Artists
- Culturally Sensitive Producing
- Cut a Print Ad, Create a Video
- Data to Assess and Advance Your Organization
- Design Thinking at San Francisco Opera
- Development Consulting for Sustainable Results
- Fundraising vs. Sales
- Granting for Individuals
- Innovation and Ideas: Becoming a Learning Organization
- Lifelong Learning in Opera: Adult Education Programs
- Long-Range New Works Planning
- Mind the GAAP: Preparing for Changes in Financial Reporting
- New Works 101 Meetup
- Opera’s Paradox: Mission and Business Model
- Opera San Luis Obispo’s Countywide Arts Collaboration
- The Power of Dynamic Pricing
- Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase
- Shared Values for Production and Operations
- Succeeding Together: Marketing and Development
- Technical Training for Opera
- Volunteers for Vocalists
- Where are They Now? The Building Opera Audiences Legacy
- Women’s Opera Network: Update and Discussion
Conference seminars offer the opportunity for attendees to delve into a specific topic in a hands-on workshop environment (additional $75 fee, unless otherwise noted). The seminar topics are:
- Campaign Readiness: Planning and Preparing for a Large-Scale Fundraising Initiative ($20; sponsored by Arts Consulting Group)
- How to Be an Ally
- Opera 101 for Administrators
- Plugging In: Arts Marketing and Video in a Digital Age
New Works Forum
OPERA America has long been an advocate in supporting the creation of new work, while helping to address challenges and opportunities associated with producing opera in the 21st century. This commitment has led to the establishment of the New Works Forum, one of the most popular events at the conference each year. The New Works Forum is a series of sessions that offers insight, practical knowledge and networking opportunities for creators and producers of new opera and music-theater works. Topics to be covered include the role of dramaturgs, family opera and repertoire that addresses contemporary issues.
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 opera. Both in person and through the live stream, attendees will see the three winning production presentations and meet the artists who created them. The three featured production teams are:
Glory Denied (Tom Cipullo)
Ashley Tata, director*
Stephan Moravski, scenic designer
Liene Dobraja, costume designer
Abigail Hoke-Brady, lighting designer*
Brad Peterson, projection and video designer
Der fliegende Holländer (Richard Wagner)
Shannon Knox, director and scenographer*
Becky Heisler, lighting designer*
Gabrielle Heerschap, technical director*
Micaela Tobin, sound designer and composer*
Der fliegende Holländer (Richard Wagner)
Luke Harlan, director*
Alexander Woodward, scenic designer*
Fabian Fidel Aguilar, costume designer*
Andrew F. Griffin, lighting designer
Rasean Davonte Johnson, projection designer*
*Attending the conference
The Director-Designer Showcase will be live streamed at conference.operaamerica.org/Live on Saturday, May 6 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. CDT and will be archived for later viewing at youtube.com/OPERAAmerica.
Six Operas In Two Cities
Conference attendees will have the chance to attend six operas:
- The Dallas Opera will present Douglas J. Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma on May 4; a semi-staged performance of Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s Everest on May 5, preceded by the world premiere of Talbot’s Everest Prelude; and Bellini’s Norma on May 7. The company will also present the animated film The Magic Piano, an animated film featuring a live piano performance by Derek Wang, on May 6.
- Fort Worth Opera will present Bizet’s Carmen on May 5; Matthew Peterson and Jason Zencka’s Voir Dire on May 6; and José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna by on May 7. On May 3 and 4, the company will also present its annual Frontiers showcase, which features excerpts from eight new works.
Networks, Forums and Learning Themes
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:
- Artistic Administration
- Development and Fundraising
- Education and Community Engagement
- Finance, Administration and Human Resources
- General Directors and CEOs
- Marketing and Public Relations
- New Works Forum
- Singer Training Forum
- Women’s Opera Network
In addition, threaded throughout the conference are a number of sessions addressing the following learning themes:
- Connecting Traditional and New Repertoire to Today’s Audiences
- Effective Collaborations and Partnerships
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
- Leadership by Experimentation and Learning
Women’s Opera Network
In 2015, OPERA America founded the Women’s Opera Network (WON), a group to support and advance women working in opera, as well as foster discussion about diversity and gender parity in the field. The group first convened at Opera Conference 2015, and they will come together again this year for a Spotlight Session on May 6.
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 2012–2016 will convene at conference for roundtable discussions.
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.
For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.
For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.