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Article Published: 10 May 2021

An IDEA for Inclusion

The inclusion of diverse voices is a matter of vital importance to today’s opera world. OPERA America’s IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) program is devised to seed the growth of new works by BIPOC creators and welcome new talent into the industry. The grants provide support to BIPOC composer-librettist teams, including $12,500 in direct support, expert mentorship, and enhanced networking opportunities at OPERA America’s forums and conferences. The grants also include the production of videos to promote the creators and their works to producers and the public.

2021 marks the second year of the program, which is supported by Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation. This year, the grants went to the creators of two operas:

Ligeia Mare by Damon Davis (composer/librettist)
Informed by science fiction and electronica, Ligeia Mare explores grief and coming-of-age. Cosmo is a gifted teenager who experiences astral projections in his sleep. When his jazz-pianist father is diagnosed with brain cancer, he uses his intergalactic visions as a coping mechanism. As Cosmo searches for a cure for his father’s illness, reality and the world of his dreams begin to merge.

Chhlong Tonle (Crossing the River) by Liliya Ugay (composer) and Sokunthary Svay (librettist)
This three-part monodrama for soprano depicts the struggles of three women from different cultures during pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. In Uzbekistan, a young woman is banished from her family over archaic prejudices about virginity. In part two, an American mother suffering from postpartum depression sacrifices her creative ambitions. The final story concerns a pregnant woman forced to “cross the river” — the Cambodian expression for a mother’s first childbirth — without a midwife.

This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue of Opera America Magazine.