OPERA America Selects Four Teams For The 2022 Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize

The biennial prize recognizes promising stage directors and designers for their ingenuity in bringing operatic work to life.

By: Dec. 07, 2022

OPERA America Selects Four Teams For The 2022 Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize

OPERA America has announced the eighth cycle of the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize to four teams of creative artists. The biennial prize recognizes promising stage directors and designers for their ingenuity in bringing operatic work to life for contemporary audiences and connects these rising artists with producers who can advance their careers. The Prize is generously supported by the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund.

The 2022-2023 winning teams are:

  • Ian Silverman, director; James Rotondo, set designer; Marcella Barbeau, lighting designer; Travis Chinick, costume designer; and Nora Winsler, choreographer, for a production concept for Fellow Travelers (Gregory Spears/Greg Pierce)

  • Claire Choquette, director; Josafath Reynoso, set designer; Scott Hynes, lighting designer; Hsiao-Wei Chen, costume designer; and Danielle Georgiou, choreographer, for a production concept for Salome (Richard Strauss/Hedwig Lachmann)

  • Alison Pogorelc, director; Ember Streshinsky, set designer; Morgan Williams, choreographer; Zhang Yu, costume designer; Avi Sheehan, lighting designer; and
    Camilla Tassi, projection/video designer, for a production concept for Salome (Strauss/Hedwig Lachmann)

  • Kimille Howard, director; John D. Alexander, lighting designer; Kimberly V. Powers, set designer; and Danielle Preston, costume designer, for a production concept for Sweeney Todd (Stephen Sondheim/Hugh Wheeler/Patrick Quentin)

See below for profiles of the creative teams and their production concepts.

The four teams were selected from a group of applicants who were invited to devise production concepts for operas chosen from a curated list of new and inherited repertoire. Concepts were evaluated based on four main criteria: artistic ability and the artistic quality of the proposal; quality and distinction in concept and planning and the appropriateness, effectiveness, and thoroughness of the planning process; robust partnership/collaboration that demonstrates a strong team dynamic and collaborative spirit; and feasibility, meaning the production must be executable and meet industry technical and safety standards.

The winning teams were awarded monetary prizes to develop their concepts further in preparation for a public presentation this spring at Opera Conference 2023 in Pittsburgh, PA, from May 17‒20. Each team will also install their set models, sketches, and other concept materials in six-month exhibitions at OPERA America's National Opera Center in New York.

The Director-Designer Prize has a track record of launching careers. Eligibility is limited to directors and designers who have yet to develop a significant body of work in the field of opera. Past winners have gone on to receive engagements for new productions with Austin Opera, Heartbeat Opera, Houston Grand Opera, LA Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, Minnesota Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Seattle Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Washington National Opera, among others.

For the first time in the history of the Director-Designer Prize, an opera company is presenting a winning team's production directly as conceived for the competition: Heartbeat Opera (New York City) will present a production of Tosca in April 2023 that was conceived in 2019 by the Prize-winning team that included Shadi Ghaheri, director and choreographer; John Bondi-Ernoehazy, scenic designer; Mika Eubanks, costume designer; Samuel Chan, lighting designer; and Yaara Bar, projection designer.

"OPERA America is committed to fostering early-career opera artists," stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America. "Thanks to the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, we are able to support the progress of some of the most promising stage directors and designers and, through them, further the artistic development of the art form."

All applications to the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize were reviewed by an independent panel that included Paul Horpedahl, performing arts production consultant, and current acting director of artistic and production operations, Washington National Opera; Marsha M. LeBoeuf, costume director, Washington National Opera; Thomas Ontiveros, visual designer; and Dona D. Vaughn, stage director, and artistic director, Opera Maine.

Named for the renowned philanthropist and champion of artists, the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize is one of many OPERA America grants and awards that support individual artists. The IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access), supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, and the IDEA Opera Residencies, supported by the Katherine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation, advance the careers of composers and librettists of color. Discovery Grants from the Opera Grants for Women Composers program, funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, support gender parity for creators. The Campbell Opera Librettist Prize, conceived and funded by librettist and lyricist Mark Campbell, specifically recognizes opera librettists for their essential craft.

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, companies, and administrators. More information about OPERA America's grant and award programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.