Program Description

The American Opera Initiative is a comprehensive commissioning program founded in January 2012 by Washington National Opera. The Initiative was created to stimulate, enrich, and ensure the future of contemporary American opera.

Each season of the American Opera Initiative features three 20-minute operas, presented in the fall, and performed in the winter, performed in the spring. Commissioned works are based on American themes and stories. Each team of composers and librettists workshops their operas throughout the development cycle at the Kennedy Center and has the invaluable experience of witnessing their work performed on a Kennedy Center stage. Each performance is followed by a Q&A session with the artists and the creative team.

Composers and librettists are chosen from conservatories that are participants in the Kennedy Center Conservatory Project. The Conservatory Project is an initiative of the Performing Arts of Everyone’s Millennium Stage, designed to present the best young musical artists in classical, jazz, musical theater, dance, and opera from our nation's leading undergraduate and graduate conservatories, colleges and universities.

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. Mentors for the 2015-2016 season are composer Ricky Ian Gordon (27, A Coffin In Egypt), librettist Mark Campbell (winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night), and conductor John DeMain (Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera).