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June 13

American Opera Initiative


Washington National Opera Announces Details of First Season of New Commissions of the

American Opera Initiative
Three new 20-minute works to be presented November 19, 2012
in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
New hour-long opera to premiere in June 2013
Inaugural mentors to include:
Composer Jake Heggie
Librettist Mark Campbell
Conductor Anne Manson
(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced initial plans for the first season of its American Opera Initiative, a comprehensive new commissioning program first announced in January.
Three young teams of composers and librettists—Douglas Pew and Dara Weinberg, Liam Wade and John Grimmett, and Scott Perkins and Nat Cassidy—will premiere new 20-minute operas, each based on a contemporary American story, in a concert performance on November 19, 2012 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. In June 2013, a new hour-long opera by D.J. Sparr and Davis Miller will premiere in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
The composer/librettist teams will collaborate on their work with distinguished mentors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American opera: composer Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick), librettist Mark Campbell (winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night), and conductor Anne Manson (Manitoba Chamber Orchestra). Conductor Robert Wood (UrbanArias) will serve as an advisor to the program and its artists. The composers and librettists will work with these mentors and advisors throughout the creative process and during workshops held at the Kennedy Center in October 2012.
These presentations will be the first of WNO’s new program to stimulate, enrich, and ensure the future of contemporary American opera. 
New 20-minute operas will explore the diversity of the American experience
The three original 20-minute operas presented on November 19 will each highlight a very different aspect of American life and culture. Each of these new works will be presented with accompaniment by a small chamber orchestra and will be performed in English. Following the performance, there will be a Q&A session with the artists and creative team.
Composer Douglas Pew and librettist Dara Weinberg will present The Game of Hearts, a comedic opera about a group of widows in a Seattle nursing home. Pew and Weinberg first met in Poland last year at the start of their two-year terms as Fulbright Scholars studying music composition and theater.
Part of the Act, by composer Liam Wade and librettist John Grimmett, is a comic opera set in a vaudevillian theater in New York City in 1924. Sparks fly between actresses in a backstage dressing room when a glamorous star is accused of infidelity by her rival.
Composer Scott Perkins and librettist Nat Cassidy have created Charon, an allegorical tale of the ferryman of the River Styx and the cross-section of American characters he transports from the land of living to the world beyond.
Full casting and creative teams will be announced soon. Tickets for the November 19 presentation will go on sale to the public on July 23, 2012.
New hour-long opera will capture the spirit of boxer Muhammad Ali
Composer D.J. Sparr and librettist Davis Miller will premiere The Tao of Muhammad Ali (A Ghost Story) in June 2013 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. This original hour-long opera tells the story of a reporter’s transformative meeting with the boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
The Tao of Muhammad Ali (A Ghost Story) will be performed with a chamber orchestra and receive a complete staging by a young director and design team (with mentorship provided by WNO Artistic Advisor Francesca Zambello). Open workshops at the Kennedy Center will be held throughout its development cycle.
Complete casting, creative team, and ticketing information for the June 2013 performance will be announced at a later date.
Leading American artists to mentor next generation of opera creators
A key element of the American Opera Initiative is connecting the young composers and librettists to professional mentors who have successfully brought new American operas to the stage. Each of the inaugural mentors—composer Jake Heggie, librettist Mark Campbell, and conductor Anne Manson—as well as advisor Robert Wood will work with the artists selected for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons.


David and Alice Rubenstein are the Presenting Underwriters of WNO.
Generous support for the American Opera Initiative is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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