OPERA America Announces the Recipients of 2024 Repertoire Development Grants

$185,000 awarded to seven companies to develop new American operas.

By: Mar. 04, 2024
OPERA America Announces the Recipients of 2024 Repertoire Development Grants
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OPERA America has announced the recipients of its 2024 Repertoire Development Grants.

The biennial Repertoire Development Grant program provides financial support to OPERA America Professional Company Members for the development of new American opera and music theater works. Grants allow creators and producers to refine works-in-progress by offsetting creative fees and other costs including lab productions, workshops, readings, and revisions.

“This investment in the development of new American opera is an investment in the future of the art form,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “These grants ensure the richness and diversity of the opera tradition can continue to evolve and captivate audiences now and in the future.”

A total of $185,000 was awarded to seven new works by these companies (the two works led by Calgary Opera and Pittsburgh Opera are being developed as co-productions):

  • American Lyric Theater (New York, NY)

She Who Dared (Jasmine Barnes/Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton)

  • Calgary Opera (Calgary, AB, Canada)
    in consortium with Vancouver Opera (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Namwayut (Ian Cusson/Parmela Attariwala/Yvette Nolan)

  • Des Moines Metro Opera (Des Moines, IA)

American Apollo (Damien Geter/Lila Palmer)

  • Long Beach Opera (Long Beach, CA)

Asunción (San Cha/McCall Cadenas)

  • Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA)

Hello, Star (Carla Lucero/Jarrod Lee)

  • Pittsburgh Opera (Pittsburgh, PA)
    in consortium with Opera Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA), Intermountain Opera Bozeman (Bozeman, MT), and Boston Conservatory at Berklee (Boston, MA)

Time to Act (working title) (Laura Kaminsky/Crystal Manich)

  • The Santa Fe Opera (Santa Fe, NM)

Interplanetary Opera (working title) | The Santa Fe Opera Commissions New Opera from All Indigenous Team that Takes the Question of Colonization Into Space (Brent Michael Davids/Mary Kathryn Nagle)

The 2024 Repertoire Development Grant recipients were selected from among 47 applications by a panel of industry leaders consisting of Kitty Brazelton, composer; Nataki Garrett, co-artistic director of One Nation/One Project and the national arts and health initiative #ArtsforEveryBody; Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Gene Scheer, librettist; and Mo Zhou, director.

Repertoire Development Grants are made possible through OPERA America's Opera Fund, an endowment dedicated to supporting the creation and production of new work. The Opera Fund has helped to support new classics like Nixon in China (John Adams/Alice Goodman), Little Women (Mark Adamo), Moby-Dick (Jake Heggie/Gene Scheer), Silent Night (Kevin Puts/Mark Campbell), As One (Laura Kaminsky/Mark Campbell/Kimberly Reed), and Fellow Travelers (Gergory Spears/Greg Pierce).

Recent works supported by the Opera Fund include The Central Park Five (Anthony Davis/Richard Wesley), which premiered in 2019 and won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Music; Blue (Jeanine Tesori/Tazewell Thompson); Fire Shut Up in My Bones (Terence Blanchard/Kasi Lemmons); and El último sueño de Frida y Diego (Gabriela Lena Frank/Nilo Cruz). These works have met with critical acclaim and enjoyed subsequent productions at companies across the country.

OPERA America's Opera Fund was launched by the National Endowment for the Arts, with support from the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Lee Day Gillespie, Lloyd and Mary Ann Gerlach, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation.

The next round of Repertoire Development Grants will open in summer 2025. More information about OPERA America's grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

Project Descriptions

Repertoire Development Grants were awarded to works being developed by the following opera companies:

American Lyric Theater

She Who Dared

Composer: Jasmine Barnes

Librettist: Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

Everyone has heard of Rosa Parks, but she wasn't the first to refuse to move. She Who Dared recenters the spotlight on the courageous women who helped desegregate the Montgomery bus system in the 1950s. These Civil Rights pioneers pay homage to the quiet struggle for justice that has often gone unknown — further amplifying the effects of the historic case of Browder v. Gayle. While often riotous and sometimes hilarious, these women demonstrate how everyday people have the power to challenge the systems around them and effect tangible change — if only they dare.

She Who Dared is a new opera featuring music by Jasmine Barnes and a libretto by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. Commissioned by American Lyric Theater (ALT), the opera is scheduled for its world premiere in June 2025, the details of which will be announced later this spring.

Calgary Opera

in collaboration with Vancouver Opera

Namwayut

Composers: Ian Cusson and Parmela Attariwala

Librettist: Yvette Nolan

Namwayut is an allegory of Indigenous experience, composed by Ian Cusson and Pamela Attariwala with a libretto by Yvette Nolan. With a Kwak'ala word meaning “We are all one” as its title, the work follows the 400-year-old story of Ella as she travels through time, bringing hope to humanity and calling on all of us to be responsible for the care and stewardship of the land. The opera is a fusion of found and collected natural sounds with the sounds of orchestra, chorus, and solo voices. Growing from Canadian opera singer and dramaturg Marion Newman's artistic impulse to conceptualize an opera under Indigenous leadership in a unique way, Namwayut's creation incorporates a process that is circular and inclusive — where all voices and disciplines have a place at the table. This project began as part of Calgary Opera's Opera Labs program in 2021 and is being developed in collaboration with Vancouver Opera.

Des Moines Metro Opera

American Apollo

Composer: Damien Geter

Librettist: Lila Palmer

American Apollo is a story forged at the crossroads of celebrity, class, race, and power in America. The opera teases at the impossibly closed page of the personal relationship between two intensely private people with good reasons to be silent: John Singer Sargent, the closeted celebrity image crafter and public artist; and Thomas Eugene McKeller, the artist's model and muse, who was also a soldier. Damien Geter and Lila Palmer's opera is a tale of individual courage and breathtaking vulnerability that peels the varnish off venerable historical figures to reveal the beating heart and simmering desire beneath Sargent's only uncommissioned monumental male nude. Is love blind, or does it have the keenest eyes of all? Funds from OPERA America's Repertoire Development Grant support the orchestral workshops of American Apollo.

Long Beach Opera

Asunción

Composer: San Cha

Librettist: McCall Cadenas

Asunción, a telenovela opera, follows the story of Dolores, a humble flower picker on a hacienda. Salvador, the owner of the hacienda who falls in love with Dolores and promises her the world, convinces her to marry him. He soon becomes obsessed and controlling. In a moment of despair, Dolores is greeted by a divine apparition named Esperanza with whom she falls in love. Will Dolores follow her heart and seek out Esperanza or will she stay in the wealth of her husband Salvador?

Asunción is composer San Cha's first foray into opera, and she will also perform in the work. Hailing from the world of pop music, San Cha will base the opera on her previously released album La Luz de la Esperanza. This world premiere production for Long Beach Opera will be presented in July 2024 at the Los Angeles Theater Center in partnership with the Latino Theater Company.

Opera Parallèle

Hello, Star

Composer: Carla Lucero

Librettist: Jarrod Lee

San Francisco Bay Area composer Carla Lucero and Washington D.C.-based librettist Jarrod Lee will develop Hello, Star, a new family opera based on the book by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic, to honor the contribution of Black women to science for Opera Parallèle's Hands-On-Opera initiative. The work is inspired by the story of a child's love for a dying star, which builds her own passion for empathy and space exploration as an adult. The story combines STEM subject matter alongside important themes of social and emotional learning for younger audiences.

Pittsburgh Opera

in consortium with Opera Santa Barbara, Intermountain Opera Bozeman, and Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Time to Act (working title)

Composer: Laura Kaminsky

Librettist: Crystal Manich

Pittsburgh Opera's world premiere of Time to Act (working title), in consortium with Opera Santa Barbara, Intermountain Opera Bozeman, and Boston Conservatory at Berklee, brings to the stage the highly charged topic of gun violence in America. Composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Crystal Manich, and dramaturg/stage director Amy Hutchison explore the long-term emotional impact that this violence has on our youth. Following a group of high school students as they prepare for a production of Sophocles' Antigone and are joined by a new student with a formidable secret, Time to Act demonstrates how the arts can uplift and unify victims of trauma, empowering them to act, while giving voice to the young citizens who have been most impacted by this ongoing cycle of devastating violence.

The Santa Fe Opera

Interplanetary Opera (working title) | The Santa Fe Opera Commissions New Opera from All Indigenous Team that Takes the Question of Colonization Into Space

Composer: Brent Michael Davids

Librettist: Mary Kathryn Nagle

As part of its Opera for All Voices: Stories of Our Time initiative, the Santa Fe Opera has commissioned its first Native American-created work by composer Brent Michael Davids (a citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation) and librettist Mary Kathryn Nagle (a member of the Cherokee Nation). In this new work, a group of Natives fleeing an increasingly inhospitable Earth discovers that the uninhabited planet they have been traveling to is home to an alien civilization. How will they grapple with the question of colonization, which carries so many deep wounds from their collective past? Astrophysicist Brittany Lehua Kamai (Native Hawaiian) serves as scientific advisor. Confirmed creative team members include choreographer Emily Johnson (a member of the Yup'ik Nation) and set and costume designer Patricia Michaels (a member of Taos Pueblo). This new Indigenous work will strive for an alternative perspective that is culturally and musically integrated toward a synthesis of Native and non-Native traditions that reach out to embrace a world audience.

ABOUT OPERA AMERICA

Founded in 1970, OPERA America fulfills its mission through public programs, an annual conference, regional workshops, consultations, granting programs, publications, and online resources. It is the only organization serving all constituents of opera: artists, administrators, trustees, educators, and audience members. Membership includes 200 professional opera companies; 450 associate, business, and education members; and 3,000 individuals. OPERA America extends its reach to 80,000 annual visitors to its National Opera Center and over 83,000 subscribers and followers on digital and social media. Representing over 90 percent of eligible professional companies, OPERA America is empowered to lead field-wide change.

Over the past five decades, OPERA America has awarded over $23 million to opera companies and artists across North America. This strategic philanthropy, made possible through OPERA America's Opera Fund endowment and in partnership with committed foundations, supports new work development, audience building, civic practice, co-productions, and field-wide innovation at its member opera companies. Awards to individuals advance the careers of women and people of the global majority in creative roles, highlight emerging artists, and recognize the leadership of exceptional trustees.




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