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Press Released: 27 Mar 2023

OPERA America Awards IDEA Opera Grants to Three Projects by Alan Chan, Victoria Moy, Bonita Oliver, and Olivia Shortt

Generously supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation.

OPERA America is pleased to announce the next cycle of IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access), a program that supports composers and librettists who identify as Arab, Asian, Black, Latinx, Native American, and/or Pacific Islander in the development of new operatic works and the advancement of their careers in the opera industry.

The 2023 winning creators and projects are:

  • Alan Chan, composer, and Victoria Moy, librettist, for Immortal Labia
  • Bonita Oliver, composer/librettist, for AR Arias: Sojourner Truth
  • Olivia Shortt, composer/librettist, for The Museum of the Lost and Found: gaakaazootaadiwag

(See below for additional information about the artists and their works.) 

The creator (or creators) of each project receives a prize of $18,000 to support the production of a workshop, reading, or other performance-based event and a high-quality video of the work in development. The artists and their works will be introduced to field leaders at OPERA America’s New Works Forum and Opera Conference, as well as in Opera America Magazine.

IDEA Opera Grants were established in 2019 and have been generously supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, a family foundation committed to promoting equal rights and social justice through education, music, and the law.

“We’re proud to be embarking on the second three-year cycle of IDEA grants,” stated Cerise Jacobs, president of the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation. “This cycle, we’re funding an additional grantee — three in total — in response to the overwhelming support we’ve had from panelists and applicants. What a joy to see the IDEA Grants playing such a seminal role in uplifting the stories and voices of brilliant artists of color.”

“The development of new works that reflect the diversity of the nation is vital to the future of American opera, and OPERA America is committed to supporting artists who are new to the field to help them tell those stories,” remarked Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “OPERA America is grateful to the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation for its continued commitment to promoting social justice through the arts.”

The 2023 grantees were selected from 42 applicants by an independent panel of industry experts consisting of Jen Aylmer, soprano and associate professor of voice, Carnegie Mellon University; Cerise Jacobs, Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation; Damon Davis, composer and recipient of a 2020 IDEA Opera Grant; Jane Hulburt, director of artistic operations, Cincinnati Opera; Lauren Ishida, director, promotion, Schott Music Corp | EAMDC; Diana Solomon-Glover, librettist and recipient of a 2022 IDEA Opera Grant; and Julie Tucker, conductor.

IDEA Opera Grants are complemented by the IDEA Opera Residencies program, supported by the Katherine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation, to promote the early work in opera by creative artists who are residents of New York City and who identify as Arab, Asian, Black, Latinx, Native American, and/or Pacific Islander. These programs join other grants that are designed to broaden and diversify the contemporary American opera repertoire. Since the inception of its granting programs, OPERA America has awarded over $20 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators and producers.

Applications for the next round of IDEA Opera Grants will open in fall 2023. More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

About the Artists & Works

Immortal Labia
Alan Chan, composer
Victoria Moy, librettist

Immortal Labia is an American Asian futurist jazz opera for six singers and a small ensemble. It’s the year 5029, and two-headed intersex humans of the future (who are now an asexual reproductive species) discover that the human race used to consist of two sexes. Way more excited about female anatomy and reproductivity, and women’s ability to get pregnant, they decide to research the history of womanhood around the world and across time and give a report as they understand it. Starting from ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, they move on to New England in the 1800s, the U.S. in the 2030s (particularly focusing on three Asian American Weird Sisters), Iran, Afghanistan, India, and beyond. Through their research, we see ways in which the female experience has evolved (or not) and discover how humans metamorphosed into their present form in the year 5029.

Alan Chan, composer
Immortal Labia

Born in Hong Kong, Alan Chan was the winner of the first ASCAP George Duke Commissioning Prize (2015) and ArtEZ Jazz Composition Contest (the Netherlands, 2011), and he has also received awards and fellowships from Ucross Foundation, Konstnärsnämnden (Sweden), and Percussive Arts Society, among others. His collaborators have included Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Millennium Jazz Orchestra (the Netherlands), Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Taipei Percussion, Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, and La Jolla Symphony.

For more than a decade, Chan has been focused on creating unique music for his 17-piece Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra. Their first album, Shrimp Tale (2014), garnered rave reviews and radio plays across the U.S. Two experimental works for Chinese instrument and jazz orchestra, which merge jazz, improvisation, and traditional Chinese music, resulted in the Moon Walk project, featuring pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen, and the Camel Walk project, featuring suona virtuoso Guo Yazhi.

Victoria Moy, librettist
Immortal Labia

Victoria Moy is an author, playwright, screenwriter, and librettist born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. She is the founder of Owl’s March, a diverse new media and theater club geared toward innovation and creativity. Moy is the author of the book-length oral history Fighting for the Dream: Voices of Chinese American Veterans from WWII to Afghanistan, which was number one on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Asian Studies, launched Veterans Day at the Museum of Chinese in America in 2014, and was featured on NPR, NBC News, and KCET. Her plays have appeared at Carrie Hamilton Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse, Willie Agee Playhouse, Ensemble Studio Theatre LA, Wild Project, Red Room, and American Theatre of Actors. As a journalist, she has penned pieces for HuffPost, The Brooklyn Rail, New York Press, and more.

AR Arias: Sojourner Truth
Bonita Oliver
, composer/librettist

AR Arias: Sojourner Truth is part one in what will become a series of landmark-based, augmented reality aria experiences that document Black American historical figures whose contributions have been omitted from or distorted within popular historical narratives. This first installment will serve as a commentary on the proliferated inaccuracies about the itinerant preacher and activist Sojourner Truth. AR Arias: Sojourner Truth is presented as seven arias and seven accompanying visuals in an AR format. The libretto investigates the subverted truth of Sojourner's life as a spiritualist, community builder, woman, mother, and lover. Layers of spatially mixed vocals are contrasted with audio-reactive visuals that represent historical distortion. Through this sound and imagery, we are invited to interrogate imposed stereotypes about Black womanhood that have been perpetuated throughout history. Audiences gain access to these experiences through the purchase of tiered NFTs in an AR app. Each tier of NFT gives access to a different level of experience. Proceeds will support the programming of partnering historical organizations and organizations that help preserve the specific landmark sites to which each AR Aria is attached. These include sites across multiple states, including Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and the District of Columbia.

Bonita Oliver, composer/librettist
AR Arias: Sojourner Truth

Bonita Oliver is a multidisciplinary performance artist and improviser. She creates deeply emotional, body-in-space concept works using voice, music, movement, visual art, and video. Her live and virtual performances are interactive and immersive, inviting audience participation and encouraging the creation of community. Her motivation is to heal personal and ancestral trauma through artistic expression — making way for discovery and connection. Oliver is a multi-award-winning filmmaker who is a member of SAG-AFTRA, ASCAP, NYWIFT, and WOCU. As a vocalist, she has performed at institutions including Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Queens Museum, among others. Oliver was a 2021 artist in residence at Loisaida Inc. and the recipient of 2021 UMEZ grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which supported her creation of a virtual reality experience called Seeking Truth. In 2022, she was awarded an OPERA America IDEA Opera Residency and NYFA Music Fellowship, and was a NYFA Demystifying NFTs Awardee.

The Museum of the Lost and Found: gaakaazootaadiwag
Olivia Shortt
, composer/librettist

Far out in the woods, in a microcosm that sits near the veil between worlds, there is a museum. The Museum has custody over exhibits filled with lost and found items, their stories, and the people who belong to these items, all hidden in plain sight. When items from the “Lost & Found” don’t return home, is anyone still looking for them? Upon arrival at The Museum, we meet the tour guide, the other members of the tour group, a chorus of Memories and Echoes of people left behind in the museum, and the band of musicians whose spirits are trapped there.

The work is a large-scale, site-specific operatic work that blends improvisation, opera, technology, and immersive theater as a work-in-development that will be presented at the Hood Museum on April 8, 2023, as part of the New Music Festival (produced by Taylor Ho Bynum). The opera’s narrative is a surrealist allegory about the issues and problems with museums and their repatriation processes, specifically of stolen items and bodies from Indigenous communities, which relates to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

Olivia Shortt, composer/librettist

Olivia Shortt is a noisemaker, video artist, curator, and troublemaker. Shortt’s work is greatly inspired by their love of camp, drag, and gender expression and its relation to Indigeneity. Highlights include Shortt’s world-premiere performance (2022 Whitney Biennial) of For Olivia Shortt written for Shortt as part of Raven Chacon’s series For Zitkala-Ša; their film debut performing in Atom Egoyan’s 2019 film Guest of Honour; and recording an album two kilometers underground in the SNOLAB (Sudbury, Canada). Works created over the last two years include commissions for Long Beach Opera, the JACK Quartet, and Din of Shadows. Shortt was one of the 2020 Buddies in Bad Times’ Emerging Queer Artists and is featured in the 2020 winter edition of Musicworks magazine. Shortt’s favorite review of themselves came from a four-year-old child who said, “I don't know why I like it,” regarding a performance Shortt did of Raven Chacon’s music.


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