The Kennedy Center


Washington National Opera: Three New 20-Minute Operas, part of the American Opera Initiative Festival

Saturday, January 12, 2019

American Opera Initiative (AOI) Festival Washington National Opera

Three world premiere short operas will be staged in a concert performance, accompanied by a small chamber orchestra and followed by a Q&A with the artists and creative team. This season's distinguished mentors include composer Jake Heggie, composer and librettist Gene Scheer, and conductor Steven Osgood.

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Catch a glimpse into the future of opera!

Three New 20-Minute Operas

Jan. 12 (2019), Two shows in the Terrace Theater

Three world premiere short operas will be staged in a concert performance, directed by Andrea Dorf McGray and accompanied by a small chamber orchestra, comprised of WNO Orchestra musicians, conducted by Steven Osgood. The evening will conclude with a Q&A with the artists and creative team. Each opera will be performed in English and highlight a very different aspect of American life and culture. Among the casts will be WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists.

“Short-form chamber opera appears to be the wave of operatic future,” said the Washington Post about our 2015 world premiere presentations.


Matt Boehler / Laura Barati
Molly Joyce / James Kennedy
Nicolas Lell Benavides / Marella Martin Koch


75 Miles
Music by Matt Boehler
Libretto by Laura Barati
It’s 20 minutes before dinner in rural Pennsylvania and 16-year-old Avery just discovered she’s pregnant—and the nearest women's health clinic is halfway across the state. Inspired by true events, 75 Miles follows a family forced to grapple with their faith, beliefs, and economic limitations in the face of an unexpected pregnancy.

Avery: Alexandra Nowakowski ‡
Marianne: Alexandra Christoforakis
Jason: Joshua Conyers ‡

Music by Molly Joyce
Libretto by James Kennedy
Marina wakes up in a hospital room after a serious drug overdose. As she pieces together the details of how she wound up so debilitated by her dependence on the pills, the formidable challenges of overcoming her addiction slowly come into fresh focus. In the chaos of influence from those who want her to make a full recovery and those who would perpetuate her cycle of dependency, Marina has to decide for herself if and how she will move forward.

Marina: Amanda Palmeiro 
Jessie: Alexandra Nowakowski ‡
Aaron: Alexander McKissick ‡
Nurse: Samson McCrady ‡ 

Music by Nicolas Lell Benavides
Libretto by Marella Martin Koch
Pepito, a lonely shelter dog, searches for solace in the memories of his old life as another long day draws to a close—but when Camila and David, young married professionals, arrive eager to find the perfect dog for their little family, it seems as though things may finally be looking up. Yet as Camila and Pepito's bond deepens, the cracks in her and David’s unfulfilling marriage become more apparent. Are she and David as ready to move forward together as they thought?

Camila: Alexandra Nowakowski ‡
Angie: Alexandra Christoforakis  
David: Joshua Blue ‡
Pepito: Samuel Weiser ‡

‡ Current member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program

WNO’s acclaimed commissioning program for contemporary American opera enters its seventh exciting season, once again featuring four world premieres across a single weekendOur Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists and other talented performers will be featured throughout the festival, guided by program director Robert Ainsley. Award-winning composer Jake Heggie, acclaimed composer and librettist Gene Scheer, and renowned conductor Steven Osgood will be the mentors for the 2018–2019 AOI 20 Minute Operas. Complete casts and creative teams to be announced at a later date.

“WNO’s American Opera Initiative is an exciting and positive leap forward in the trajectory of American opera: keeping it fresh, energized, bold, and current.”
—Jake Heggie

Founded by Plácido Domingo in 2002 and currently guided by Robert Ainsley, this leading resident-training program cultivates promising young singers and accompanists on the verge of international careers, with many graduates going on to perform in the world’s top opera houses.

Acclaimed bass-baritone Alan Held will be the 2018–2019 Artist-in-Residence for the Domingo- Cafritz Young Artist Program. His expert mentorship will include leading individual coaching sessions, presenting group classes on a variety of repertoire, and hosting career roundtable discussions.
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.

Three 20-Minute Operas Talkback Dates:
Sat., Jan. 12; following the 9 p.m. performance only