american opera projects

The future of American opera is in good hands.
— Opera News


AOP’s mission is to redefine the operatic experience, fusing the multicultural ethos of American music with compelling narratives that are relevant to 21st century audiences.


American Opera Projects became The American Opera Project. In over thirty years of being at the forefront of contemporary opera, we went beyond being a collection of projects and became a mission. The American Opera Project is a vision, an unending experiment in storytelling with the central premise that each life is an operatic story waiting to be told - and each telling of that story is an operatic experience waiting to happen. We are a home for artists to learn, experiment, and create. We are a family of innovators in vocal storytelling. We will be beautiful. We will be dangerous. We will laugh at ourselves. We will always remember that feeling precedes thought, entertainment precedes enlightenment, and wonder precedes belief. And we will join our audience with respect, passion, and a desire to share a moment in time that will last for years to come.


In 2019, American Opera Projects became The American Opera Project. But we are still AOP. As AOP, we continue a proud legacy of being at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for over thirty years through the commissioning, developing, and producing of opera and music theatre projects, training programs for student and emerging composers and librettists, and community engagement.

AOP is recognized for its cross-genre experimentation in works such as the dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (Davis/Pelsue, BAM, 2015) and Darkling (Weisman/Rabinowitz, 2006), an interdisciplinary work combining poetry, music and projection; stories of African-American history including The Summer King (Sonenberg/Nester/Campbell, Pittsburgh Opera, 2017) and Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Okoye, Irondale, 2014); and numerous groundbreaking works on LGBTQ themes like Paul’s Case (Spears/Walat, UrbanArias, 2015), Patience & Sarah (Kimper/Persons, Lincoln Center Festival, 1998), the first opera about a lesbian relationship, and As One (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed, BAM, 2014), the first opera about a transgender person.

Recent AOP world premieres include Savage Winter (Pittsburgh Opera, 2018), The Echo Drift (PROTOTYPE Festival 2018), The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013) and As One, a chamber opera developed and premiered by AOP in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that has since become the most produced opera written in the 21st Century with over two dozen separate productions.

Operas that were developed by AOP and premiered with partner organizations include The Summer King at Pittsburgh Opera (2017) and Michigan Opera Theatre (2018), Lucy and Independence Eve at Urban Arias (2017),  The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Paul's Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010) and Heart of Darkness at London's Royal Opera House (2011) and Opera Parallèle (2015).  

AOP further expands the operatic field through its opera writing training programs in partnership with NYU and Hunter College and its in-house, two-year fellowship program for emerging artists, Composers & the Voice.

Founded in 1988 by Grethe Barret Holby in a loft apartment in SoHo, AOP began as a salon for friends to share their new music. (Jonathan Larson even appeared once to test out music from a show he was working on based on La bohème.) As Artistic Director from 1988-2001, Holby grew AOP into a non-profit arts company, producing workshops and small-scale chamber operas across New York City. Charles Jarden became General Director in 1998 and brought American Opera Projects into its second phase. Jarden moved AOP’s headquarters to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, expanded its community performances, instituted training programs for emerging composers, and formed partnerships across the nation to premiere the operas it continued to develop. In 2019, Matt Gray, who had been with AOP since 2003, was promoted to General Director and longtime AOP music director Mila Henry was appointed its new Artistic Director.

Staff and board


Matt Gray General Director
Mila Henry Artistic Director
Charles Jarden Director of Strategic Planning
Joel Kalow Administrative Assistant

Greg Trupiano Brooklyn Outreach Coordinator
W. Wilson Jones Resident Production Stage Manager
Certus LLP Accountants
Naomi Ramirez Bookkeeping
Arnold & Porter Legal Counsel


Marshall Cohen
Anthony Roth Costanzo
Sarah Moulton Faux
J. David Jackson
Charles Jarden
W. Wilson Jones
Mark Kalow
Kevin R. Myers
Anna Rabinowitz
Norman Ryan

In Memoriam:

Dr. Coco Lazaroff (Board Chairperson: 2015-18)



“a valuable company [that] offers a chance to look in on operas in progress by talented composers” — The New Yorker

"known for bringing cutting-edge vocal productions to the masses" — New York

"a perfect first exposure to opera." — Time Out NY

"Bravo to AOP for supporting such controversial and ultimately important work." — Opera Today

"The future of American opera is in good hands." — Opera News


AOP is a member of OPERA America, Fort Greene Association, the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance, the New York Opera Alliance, and Alliance of Resident Theatres/ New York (A.R.T./NY). American Opera Projects is an IRS recognized 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.