The Kennedy Center


Washington National Opera: Proving Up, a New Hour-Long Opera part of the American Opera Initiative Festival

Friday, January 19, 2018 - Sunday, January 21, 2018

Washington National Opera

A group of Nebraska families struggles to claim their land under the Homestead Act in this world premiere opera from composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek (Opera Philadelphia's huge success story Breaking the Waves) based on a coming-of-age short story by Karen Russell.

Search for Current Events


Catch a glimpse into the future of opera!

Proving Up
New Hour-Long Opera
Part of the American Opera Initiative Festival

In the fall of 2016 at Opera Philadelphia, composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek electrified both audiences and critics with their premiere of Breaking the Waves, which now "stands among the best 21st-century operas yet produced" (Opera News). On the heels of their enormous success, these two important new talents in American music reunite to create a captivating tale of homesteading in the American West. In Proving Up, based on a coming-of-age short story by Karen Russell, a group of Nebraska families struggles to claim their land under the Homestead Act. In order to satisfy the grant, or "prove up," their homes must each have at least one glass window. Unable to afford such a luxury, the families recruit young Miles to ferry a single window from one home to the next, each time the inspector arrives. How will Miles handle this enormous responsibility, knowing so many depend on his help to achieve the American Dream?


Mrs. Johannes “Ma” Zegner
Leah Hawkins

Zegner Sister 1
Madison Leonard

Zegner Sister 2
Allegra De Vita

Miles Zegner
Arnold Livingston Geis

Mr. Johannes “Pa” Zegner
Christopher Kenney

The Sodbuster
Timothy J. Bruno


Missy Mazzoli

Royce Vavrek

Chris Rountree 

Alison Moritz


WNO's acclaimed commissioning program for contemporary American opera enters its sixth exciting season, once again featuring four world premieres across a single weekend. Our Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists and other talented performers will be featured throughout the festival, now guided by program director Robert Ainsley. Says the Washington Post: "Encouraging new voices and new work is a good thing… and [the American Opera Initiative] is getting more music heard. Let's applaud it--and attend it!" Complete casts and creative teams to be announced at a later date.
"I'm thrilled to once again serve as the librettist mentor for the AOI. This training program for the next generation of composers and librettists has taken on a crucial role in the creation of new opera in this country."--Mark Campbell


Award-winning bass-baritone Eric Owens (Don Carlo) and acclaimed director Peter Kazaras (The Barber of Seville) will be the 2017–2018 season's Artists-in-Residence for the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Their expert mentorship will include leading individual coaching sessions, presenting group classes on a variety of repertoire, and hosting career roundtable discussions. 

Founded by Plácido Domingo in 2002 and currently guided by Robert Ainsley, this leading resident-training program cultivates promising young singers and coach/accompanists on the verge of international careers, with many graduates going on to perform in the world's top opera houses. Throughout their training, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists are featured prominently in WNO performances.


Don't miss your opportunity to engage directly with our artists and share your thoughts on the experience you just had! Here's your chance to ask questions and get the inside scoop on the production from members of the cast and creative team. 
All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.

Proving Up Talkback Dates:
Friday, Jan. 19 & Sunday, Jan. 21