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Article Published: 01 Apr 2019

Encouragement for Creators of Color

Cerise Jacobs
Cerise Jacobs (photo: James Daniel)

Madame White Snake’s 2010 premiere was a gratifying experience for Cerise Jacobs the former lawyer who conceived of the project and wrote its libretto. The piece won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for its composer, Zhou Long. But in her first operatic venture, Jacobs noted that in its creators, the field was hardly more diverse than the law profession. “I looked around and it was astonishing to me how few people writing operas were people of color,” says Jacobs. “As the years when on, it became obvious to me that I had to do something. We have to stop being afraid of the musical language of people from diverse backgrounds.”

Jacobs took a major step in that direction earlier this year when, working through the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, she funded OPERA America’s new IDEA Opera Grants (denoting “Inclusion, Equity, Diversity and Access”). The program is intended to nurture the work of emerging opera creators of color, providing grants of up to $12,500 to help composer-librettists teams advance their works through workshops, readings or other developmental activities.  In addition, the grant will provide a videography team to create high-quality promotional videos of the works in progress, valued at $12,500 apiece. The project is designed to introduce the industry to the work of these early-career creators through presentations at OA’s New Works Forum and annual conference, via OA’s social media channels, and in the pages of Opera America.

“The ultimate goal is to get more composers and librettists of color into the field, working in opera however they interpret it and not feeling like it’s a white person’s art form,” says Jacobs.

To apply visit for IDEA Opera Grants page. These grants are open to all librettists and composers who identify as ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian or Native American).

This article was published in the Spring 2019 issue of Opera America Magazine.