Sarasota Opera Awarded $20,000 NEA Grant for Next World Premiere
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA's second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $20,000 to the Sarasota Opera in support of the commissioning and world premiere of Rootabaga Country, a new opera by composer by Rachel J. Peters which will mark the company's 6th world premiere. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.
"The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America's artists and arts organizations," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as the Sarasota Youth Opera, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences."
"We have been very gratified to receive NEA support for Sarasota Youth Opera programs in the past and are thrilled that support will continue with a grant for our commission of Rootabaga Country," says Richard Russell, Executive Director of Sarasota Opera. "The production of this new opera will involve nearly a hundred youth opera members, and countless more who will enjoy the performances. It is just one of many ways that the NEA positively impacts the creative lives of young people in this country."
After a nationwide search, Sarasota Opera commissioned composer/librettist Rachel J. Peters to compose Sarasota Youth Opera's next world premiere. Ms. Peter's opera, Rootabaga Country, which is being written now and will have its premiere on November 11, 2017, was selected over 12 other submissions. This will be the sixth opera commissioned by the Sarasota Youth Opera program.
The winning work is an adaptation of selections from Carl Sandburg's 1922 book Rootabaga Stories which is a collection of whimsical short stories created out of Sandburg's desire to invent "American fairy tales" to match American childhood. In her opera, Ms. Peters introduces the audience to three characters; Gimme the Ax and his two children, Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, who have sold their possessions as they prepare to travel to Rootabaga Country, a land in the sky. Alelia, the children's mother who loved to visit Rootabaga Country as a young girl, had previously disappeared when they were small so this journey is the family's way of connecting with her again. Once they arrive, they meet Potato Face Blind Man who stations himself at every town's post office and leads the family on adventures meeting unique characters along the way. Each journey provides the children with a connection to the mother they never knew and, at the conclusion of the story, the knowledge that families come in all shapes and sizes.
Sarasota Opera announced the Request for Submission in March 2015. To be considered, composers were asked to submit at minimum 30% of a new work that had yet to receive a performance. Sarasota Opera received 13 submissions from composers around the country and after several months of consideration, Ms. Peters' work stood out among them. The requirements for submission included the opera having a libretto in English and be approximately 60 minutes in length. In addition, the work needed to include 10 - 15 solo youth roles, be mostly sung with minimal spoken dialogue, and have a chamber orchestra for up to 13 instruments.