New Orleans Opera is honored to have been awarded a Next Stage Grant from OPERA America in support of Blue.

Media Contact: Mariah Forde, mforde@neworleansopera.org, 240-506-7789
Date: May, 24, 2023

NEW ORLEANSOPERA America announced grants this week totaling $200,000 to six American opera companies through its Next Stage Grants program.

Next Stage Grants support the second or subsequent productions of existing North American works that deserve additional attention from producers, audiences, and critics. The grants provide opera companies with the opportunity to edit, adjust, and refine the works for new audiences.

Grants were awarded to six opera companies:

  • Chicago Opera Theater (Chicago, IL), for Book of Mountains and Seas,
    music and libretto by Huang Ruo;
  • Los Angeles Opera (Los Angeles, CA), for Highway 1, USA,
    music by William Grant Still, libretto by Verna Arvey;
  • New Orleans Opera (New Orleans, LA), for Blue,
    music by Jeanine Tesori, libretto by Tazewell Thompson;
  • Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA), for Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera,
    music by David T. Little; libretto by Royce Vavrek;
  • Opera Southwest (Albuquerque, NM), for Before Night Falls,
    music by Jorge Martín, libretto by Dolores M. Koch;
  • Virginia Opera (Norfolk, VA), for Sanctuary Road,
    music by Paul Moravec, libretto by Mark Campbell.

(See below for additional information about the productions.)

“OPERA America is committed to building the American opera repertoire and supporting subsequent productions is a vital aspect of this work,” remarked Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “Providing support for the revision and production of existing works strengthens the American canon and brings these refreshed works to new audiences.”

Next Stage Grants are available to OPERA America’s Professional Company Members. Awards support 50% of eligible costs: up to $25,000 to present an existing production; up to $50,000 to originate a new production as a sole applicant; and up to $75,000 to originate a new production as part of a consortium. The program offers supplemental support for revisions to the score, libretto, and/or orchestration.

Grantees were selected by an independent panel of experts including Patricia K. Beggs, general director emerita, Cincinnati Opera; Blythe Gaissert, mezzo-soprano; Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, poet, activist, and educator; and Thaddeus Strassberger, stage director and designer.

Next Stage Grants were first offered in the late 1990s. They were revived in 2020 as part of OPERA America’s commitment to strengthening the American opera canon.

2023 Next Stage Grants were funded with gifts from OPERA America’s 50th Anniversary Campaign, including a leadership gift from Frayda B. Lindemann. Supplemental support for revisions was generously provided by the Mellon Foundation.

Since the inception of its granting programs in the mid-1980s, OPERA America has awarded over $23 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, administrators, and companies.

More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

About the Recipients

Chicago Opera Theater

Book of Mountains and Seas (premiered 2021)
Music and libretto by Huang Ruo

As part of Chicago Opera Theater’s (COT) 50th anniversary season, COT and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival will present the Midwest premiere of Huang Ruo’s Book of Mountains and Seas at the historic Studebaker Theater in downtown Chicago. In this Beth Morrison Projects production, four fables centered around the creation and destruction of the earth are uniquely told by a company of 12 singers, two percussionists, and six puppeteers with staging by celebrated puppeteer Basil Twist. Ruo’s vibrant and inventive score, which draws inspiration from Chinese folk music, breathes new life into the ancient stories. This is a powerful and extraordinary work that will challenge the way audiences interact with nature and the environment. COT will partner with the Festival and other community organizations to present free public programming before the planned production in January 2024.

Los Angeles Opera

Highway 1, USA (premiered 1963)
Music by William Grant Still, Libretto by Verna Arvey

Los Angeles Opera’s new production of William Grant Still and Verna Arvey’s Highway 1, USA, presented in a double feature with Alexander von Zemlinsky and Georg C. Klaren’s The Dwarf, marks the next installment in LA Opera’s Recovered Voices initiative. Launched in 2007, Rediscovered Voices unearths important works that have been suppressed due to historical neglect and censorship. Conducted by Richard Seaver Music Director James Conlon, this new production is led by visionary director Kaneza Schaal, with production design by Christopher Myers, and stars soprano Nicole Heaston, baritone Norman Garrett, and tenor Chaz’men Williams-Ali.

New Orleans Opera

Blue (premiered 2019)
Music by Jeanine Tesori, Libretto by Tazewell Thompson

New Orleans Opera (NOO) will present the Southern premiere of Blue on November 10 and 12, 2023, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. This work, centered around a community grappling with a terrible act of violence and racial injustice, will resonate with audiences through situational realities that are still experienced today. “The tragedy shared by this family is a microcosm of a nationwide epidemic and, through the art of opera, we hope to initiate conversations that can serve as a catalyst for change,” says General and Artistic Director Clare Burovac. Funding from OPERA America will support the creation of a new production that can have life beyond NOO on stages across the country. 

Opera Parallèle

Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (premiered 2010)
Music by David T. Little, libretto by Royce Vavrek

Opera Parallèle will pair David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s 2010 opera, Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera with Laura Karpman and Gail Collins’ opera Balls in April 2024 at SFJAZZ.  The innovative comedic pairing “Birds and Balls” explores how competition can consume a personality. Little and Karpman have standardized and bridged the orchestration of their individual short works to be produced as a pair, making them appropriate and attractive for small companies seeking fresh performances for their audiences

Opera Southwest

Before Night Falls (premiered 2010)
Music by Jorge Martín, libretto by Dolores M. Koch

Opera Southwest, in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus, will create a new production of Jorge Martín and Dolores M. Koch’s Before Night Falls, based on the autobiography of Reinaldo Arenas, the famous Cuban poet and writer.

Virginia Opera

Sanctuary Road (premiered 2022)
Music by Paul Moravec, libretto by Mark Campbell

Harriet Tubman may be the best-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, but there were others, including William Still. An abolitionist and historian, Still is credited with helping nearly 800 enslaved African Americans escape to freedom. Sanctuary Road, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, is based on Still’s remarkable writings.


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