AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS RECEIVES $300,000 GRANT FROM MELLON FOUNDATION FOR OPERA TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

Alfred Walker in Pittsburgh Opera’s 2017 world premiere of  The Summer King , an opera that began development in AOP’s Composers & the Voice training program and in subsequent workshops. (David Bachman Photography)

Alfred Walker in Pittsburgh Opera’s 2017 world premiere of The Summer King, an opera that began development in AOP’s Composers & the Voice training program and in subsequent workshops. (David Bachman Photography)


BROOKLYN, NY, June 20, 2019 – Contemporary opera producer American Opera Projects (AOP) has been awarded a $300,000 multi-year grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its core training and workshop programs, as well as support for new staff positions. Formed by two of Andrew Mellon’s children on June 30, 1969, the Foundation’s opera program “has placed a particular focus on a small number of companies demonstrating a longstanding commitment to advancing the art form through the presentation of ambitious new works or those rarely heard.”

The majority of the award will help to fund the upcoming cycles of AOP’s tuition-free training program Composers & the Voice (C&V), a competitive two-year fellowship offered to composers and librettists that includes a year of working with the company’s resident ensemble of singers and artistic team. The fellows learn the fundamentals of opera writing during the first year followed by a year of continued creation, promotion and career development through AOP and its strategic partnerships. Since launching in 2002 with the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, C&V has fostered the artistic and career development of over 70 composers & librettists.

The grant will also help to fund AOP’s First Chance workshops for the creation of new opera that allow composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with professional singers and accompaniment. First Chance builds producing and artistic partnerships on the path to premiere productions.

AOP has been at the forefront of new American opera for over thirty years through commissioning, developing, and presenting opera and music theatre projects. The company is recognized for its cross-genre experimentation in works such as Darkling (Weisman/Rabinowitz, 2006), an interdisciplinary work combining poetry, music and projection, and the dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (Davis/Pelsue, BAM, 2015); 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 Center, 2014); and numerous groundbreaking works on LGBTQ themes such as Paul’s Case (Spears/Walat, UrbanArias, 2013), Patience & Sarah (Kimper/Persons, Lincoln Center Festival, 1998) and As One (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed, BAM, 2014)., the most widely produced contemporary opera in the U.S. and Canada in the past two seasons (Opera America magazine).

A portion of the grant will be dedicated to capacity building and partially supporting salaries for two new staff positions in the 2019-20 season. The staff expansion coincides with a period of change and growth at AOP beginning on July 1, 2019 when Matt Gray, who currently serves as AOP’s Producing Director, will become General Director, and Mila Henry will join the company as Artistic Director. Current General Director, Charles Jarden, who has led the company since 2002, will help guide the organization’s leadership transition in the newly- created role of Director of Strategic Partnerships. AOP’s Board of Directors approved the change in institutional structure early in 2019.

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is among the nation’s largest funders of the arts, and the humanities in higher education. Additional information is available at https://mellon.org/. More information about AOP’s Mellon-supported programs can be found at www.aopopera.org and www.aopopera.org/composers-voice.

Sasha Cooke (seated) and Kelly Markgraf in  As One  (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed), an opera that has had 27 new productions since its commission, development and premiere in 2014. Photo by Dave Munch for Chautauqua Institution

Sasha Cooke (seated) and Kelly Markgraf in As One (Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed), an opera that has had 27 new productions since its commission, development and premiere in 2014. Photo by Dave Munch for Chautauqua Institution

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