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Press Released: 11 Dec 2019

OPERA America Announces Recipients of Repertoire Development Grants

Seven Companies Receive a Total of $220,000 To Develop New American Operas

OPERA America has awarded $220,000 in Repertoire Development Grants to The American Opera Project (New York, NY) in consortium with Seagle Music Colony (Schroon Lake, NY), Beth Morrison Projects (New York, NY), Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Diego Opera and The Dallas Opera. The grants provide technical and financial support to OPERA America Professional Company Members and their producing partners to enhance the quality, quantity and creativity of new American opera and music theater.

Recipients of the Repertoire Development Grants were selected from among 34 applications by a panel of industry leaders consisting of Jane Cho, director of administration, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College; Jamil Jude, stage director and producer; Jimmy López Bellido, composer; Jim Lowe, conductor; and Caroline Worra, singer.

Repertoire Development Grants allow creators and producers to assess and refine works-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.

“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 recent decades,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “Since the year 2000, we’ve seen the premiere of over 700 North American operas. American works account for 18 percent of all productions in the 2019–2020 season."

The grants are made possible through OPERA America’s Opera Fund, an endowment dedicated to supporting the creation and production of new work. Since its inception, the Opera Fund has supported the development of 79 new works, including Akhnaten by Philip Glass, which recently sold out a run at the Metropolitan Opera, demonstrating the vitality of modern American opera.

The Opera Fund has helped to support new classics like Nixon in China (John Adams/Alice Goodman), Little Women (Mark Adamo) and Moby-Dick (Jake Heggie/Gene Scheer). Three operas that premiered in 2019 and resonate powerfully with contemporary issues received Opera Fund grants: Blue (Jeanine Tesori/Tazewell Thompson), The Central Park Five (Anthony Davis/Richard Wesley) and Fire Shut Up in My Bones (Terence
Blanchard/Kasi Lemmons). Fellow Travelers (Gregory Spears/Greg Pierce) and As One (Laura Kaminsky/Mark Campbell/Kimberly Reed) are two of the most performed American operas in recent seasons and explore the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity; both were supported by OPERA America grants.

The Opera Fund was launched with support from 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, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Since the inception of its granting programs, OPERA America has awarded $20 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, companies and administrators. The next round of Repertoire Development Grants will open in summer 2021. More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

2019 Repertoire Development Grant Recipients

The American Opera Project and Seagle Music Colony
Composer Joseph N. Rubinstein
Librettist Jason Kim

Famed drag performer Dee Legendary embarks on a passionate love affair with Officer John, whose fascination with Dee threatens to dismantle the House of Legendary and its drag family. Legendary is an opera about double lives and destructive desires, set in the glory days of New York City’s underground drag culture in the 1980s. It is currently in development with The American Opera Project (AOP) and will have its fabulous premiere in 2022.

Beth Morrison Projects
Composer Mary Kouyoumdjian
Librettist Royce Vavrek

Based on the Atom Egoyan film of the same name, Adoration follows the fictional and actual circumstances of how a child became an orphan, and how religious intolerance and hatred can lead to viral hysteria and justification for death. This gripping drama fosters a challenging discussion about the root causes of hate and how we can strive for a more just society.

In 2018, Beth Morrison Projects received a Commissioning Grant for this work, as part of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

Houston Grand Opera
Composer Jake Heggie
Librettist Gene Scheer

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Intelligence, set during the Civil War in Richmond, Virginia, follows the historically documented story of two remarkable women, an enslaved woman and an abolitionist, whose courageous espionage efforts impacted the outcome of the war.

Lyric Opera of Chicago
Three one-act operas (titles TBD)
Curated by Renée Fleming, by composers Caroline Shaw, John Luther Adams and Daniel Bernard Roumain, with librettos by Anna Deavere Smith, poet John Haines, and a librettist to be confirmed

Lyric’s 2022–2023 mainstage season will feature three new one-act opera commissions, curated by Lyric Creative Consultant Renée Fleming, offered as a single opera production. Pieces by preeminent composers Caroline Shaw, John Luther Adams and Daniel Bernard Roumain, who will participate in the works’ rehearsal and development process, offer audiences world premieres that explore relevant, contemporary themes related to our personal connectivity with each other, society and our world.

In 2019, Lyric Opera of Chicago received a Commissioning Grant for this work, as part of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

San Diego Opera
El último sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego)
Composer Gabriela Lena Frank
Librettist Nilo Cruz

San Diego Opera will host an orchestral workshop of El último sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego). A co-commission between San Diego Opera, Fort Worth Opera and DePauw University School of Music, El último sueño imagines a reunion between the influential artists and Mexican cultural icons Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, against the backdrop of a Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico City in 1957.

In 2017, San Diego Opera received a Commissioning Grant for this work, as part of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

The Dallas Opera
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Composer Joby Talbot
Librettist Gene Scheer

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is an adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of the same name. The story follows Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French ELLE magazine, after a stroke leaves him with “locked-in syndrome,” in which he is physically paralyzed yet mentally aware. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit and the ability to find hope and joy in the face of unimaginable tragedy.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

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