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Article Published: 01 Apr 2017

A Boost for Audience Development

With the goal of promoting learning experiences about new or unusual American operas, OPERA America recently awarded a total of $160,000 to 10 companies through its Audience Development grant program. The grants are drawn from The Opera Fund, a growing endowment that since 2002 has provided support for new works and related programming.

Applications for Audience Development grants were adjudicated by a panel consisting of composer Douglas J. Cuomo; Ann Gregg, director of social impact programs at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute; Kristen Jackson, connectivity director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; Jonathan Moscone, chief of civic engagement at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; and Julia Rhoads, artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions.

BOUNCE The Basketball Opera by Glen Roven, Tomas Doncker, Ansolo Music and Charles R. Smith Jr.

In partnership with Kentucky Opera Theatre, Ardea Arts will present BOUNCE The Basketball Opera — a work fusing rap, EDM, gospel, rock and classical singing — in Lexington, Kentucky and surrounding counties. Artists and athletes will work side by side to present the opera on basketball courts, fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Soldier Songs by David T. Little

Des Moines Metro Opera partnered in January 2017 with Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center, Iowa’s largest military installation, to present three onsite performances of the one-act opera Soldier Songs. Veterans of combat served as production consultants and attended a free performance. The VA Central Iowa Health Care System led talk-back sessions with active-duty and retired military personnel.

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia

Fort Worth Opera will present Fiesta Fort Worth, a free public festival featuring a simulcast of the mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. The festival is part of Noches de Ópera, the company’s four-year initiative to present authentic and relevant Spanish-language stories. The festival, in downtown Fort Worth, will feature local performers and community speakers.

As One by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed

Leading up to performances of As One, Long Beach Opera will collaborate with the local LGBTQ community, including nonprofit, school-based and employee organizations, to present a series of “coincidences,” educational  panels, films, oral history and a trans youth art exhibition. Partner organizations include the GSA Network, Trevor Project and regional LGBTQ centers.

Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer

For its company premiere of Cold Mountain, North Carolina Opera will offer two related programs: a panel session, open rehearsal and learning discussion in conjunction with rehearsals of the opera; and performances for military communities across the state, presented in coordination with the USO of North Carolina.

Proving Up by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek

Leading up to the world premiere of Proving Up in April 2018, Opera Omaha will undertake a broad schedule of learning activities for students and adults. These will explore literary, poetic, compositional and historical aspects of the work and the creative process behind it, with the aim of developing interest in and appreciation of new opera.

Susannah by Carlisle Floyd

Opera Roanoke will create a series of behind-the-scenes videos for social media about Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, giving audiences an inside look into how a regional company stages opera. This project, believed to be the first of its kind by a nonprofit arts organization in the region, will examine the planning process behind the production and continue through the three weeks of rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally

Pensacola Opera will present 14 town-hall-style meetings leading up to and following the Florida premiere of Dead Man Walking, bringing together members of the religious, legal and social service sectors to discuss crime and its impact on the community. Included in the series is a conversation with composer Jake Heggie and Sister Helen Prejean.

A Gathering of Sons by Dwayne Fulton and Tameka Cage Conley

As part of its “Music that  Matters” series, Pittsburgh Festival Opera commissioned A Gathering of Sons, a work that explores themes of race, social justice and the role of police in communities. The world premiere will be preceded by a series of performance workshops featuring excerpts and facilitated talkbacks with artists and community leaders.

The Summer King by Daniel Sonenberg

In conjunction with the Pittsburgh Opera world premiere of The Summer King — an opera about Josh Gibson, the legendary Negro League baseball player — the cast and creative team will appear at a series of events intended to honor the city’s African-American community. They will visit religious congregations and other neighborhood locations to discuss the upcoming production, present live excerpts and share their personal experiences as African-American artists.

This article was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Opera America Magazine.