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Article Published: 01 Jan 2020

New Opportunities for Creators of Color

Contemporary opera is continually looking to expand the array of stories it tells and reflect the diversity of our society. With its newly established IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) program, OPERA America aims to support these efforts while providing platforms for artists of color. Fostering the works of these artists will enrich the opera landscape, increase diversity on our stages and welcome new audiences who may have previously felt underrepresented.

Supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, the grants award composer-librettist teams who identify as African, Latinx, Arab, Asian or Native American with $12,500 to develop their work through workshops, readings and other activities. In addition to the funding, OA will hire videography teams to create promotional videos of the works. Grantees will also receive complimentary registration at a New Works Forum and the Opera Conference, where they can discuss their work with industry leaders.

For the program’s inaugural year, two composer-librettist teams have received grants for works in development:

Hu Tong

Composer: Kui Dong
Librettist: Monica Datta

In this fantasy chamber opera, a Beijing hu tong — courtyards and alleyways of traditional Chinese urban living — is under siege to make way for new construction. Through 15 interrelated scenes, the work reveals stories of members of the community; among them, a French architect, a blind Norwegian sailor, a musician-turned-detective, a phoenix and a Chinese immigrant worker. The opera examines the ways in which human connections are determined by architectural structures and the personal reckonings spurred by cultural and environmental change.

The Veil

Composer: Daniel Reza Sabzghabaei
Librettists: Mina Salehpour and Yashar Saghai

Interconnected vignettes trace the history of the veil in Iran. The piece draws from anecdotes, stories, poetry and prose from a prominent women’s movement that fights for equality for the women of Iran and against the country’s mandatory veiling laws.

This article was published in the Winter 2020 issue of Opera America Magazine.