OPERA America Awards First-Ever IDEA Opera Grants for Composers and Librettists of Color
Grant Program Brings New Creative Talent to Opera Stages
OPERA America has awarded the inaugural cycle of IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) to composer Kui Dong and librettist Monica Datta for Hu Tong (Narrow Alley) and composer Daniel Reza Sabzghabaei and librettists Mina Salehpour and Yashar Saghai for The Veil. The grants are designed to support and promote new works by the most promising composers and librettists of color through developmental activities like workshops and working performances.
The selected teams will receive a total of $25,000 and high-quality video portraits of their works for promotional use. OPERA America will provide complimentary registration, travel and housing to attend a New Works Forum and Opera Conference 2020, where the teams will be able to discuss their work with industry leaders. The winners will also be featured on OPERA America’s digital and social platforms and in Opera America Magazine.
The grantees were selected from an applicant pool of 64 teams by an independent adjudication panel of industry experts including Donna Di Novelli, librettist, lyricist and screenwriter; Priti Gandhi, singer and chief artistic officer, Minnesota Opera; Cerise Jacobs, Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation; Linda Jackson, managing director, Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation; David Lomeli, singer and director of artistic administration, The Dallas Opera; Tian Hui Ng, conductor; Bright Sheng, composer, conductor and pianist; and Sarah Williams, new works administrator, Opera Philadelphia.
“Selecting just two teams from more than 60 applications was a serious challenge,” said Laura Lee Everett, OPERA America’s chief programs officer. “It is inspiring to see such high-caliber work from so many talented artists who are ready and eager to make their mark on the opera industry.”
The IDEA Opera Grants program is made possible through the generosity of the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, a family foundation committed to promoting equal rights and social justice through education, music and the law.
Cerise Jacobs, president of the foundation, explained, “Creators of color have had limited access to ‘mainstream’ opera companies, and we are determined to rectify this. We hope the IDEA Opera Grants will be a catalyst for exciting and different stories, soundscapes and perspectives. OPERA America is committed to advancing the operatic art form while expanding equity, diversity and inclusion, which is why we entrusted them with the shepherding of this grant.”
“As the national service organization for opera and the nation's leading champion for American opera, OPERA America is uniquely positioned as the field’s national convener and connector to advance the careers of the most talented creative artists,” declared Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “IDEA Opera Grants enable us to identify and support the development of new American works by emerging composers and librettists of color. By facilitating their work, we will help enrich the art form with new creative voices that reflect the diversity of the nation.”
IDEA Opera Grants are the most recent addition to OPERA America’s grant programs designed to increase the depth and breadth of the contemporary American opera repertoire. Since the inception of its granting programs, OPERA America has awarded nearly $20 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, companies and administrators. The next round of IDEA Opera Grants will open in summer 2020.
More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.
2019 IDEA Opera Grant Recipients
Hu Tong (Narrow Alley)
Hu Tong is a fantasy chamber opera based on an original story. The story is told through 15 interrelated scenes centered on the interactions between an eclectic group of characters living in a Beijing hu tong — the series of courtyards and alleyways of traditional Chinese urban living — that is under siege to make way for new construction. They include a French architect, a blind Norwegian sailor, a musician-turned-detective, a phoenix and a Chinese immigrant worker. The opera investigates the ways in which human relations are determined by such architectural structures and explores a set of personal destinies in the face of social, cultural and technological changes.