The Kennedy Center


WNO: American Opera Initiative: Three New 20-Minute Operas

Friday, January 10, 2020

Washington National Opera

Three world premiere short operas—Woman of Letters, Admissions, and Night Trip—will be staged in a concert performance, accompanied by a small chamber orchestra.

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Catch a glimpse into the future of opera!

Three New 20-Minute Operas

Two shows in the Terrace Theater

Three world premiere short operas will be staged in a concert performance, accompanied by a small chamber orchestra comprised of WNO Orchestra musicians. The 9 p.m. performance will be followed by a Post-Performance Artist 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.


Woman of Letters
Music by Liliya Ugay
Libretto by Sokunthary Svay

Sam is a first generation immigrant who works as a janitor at a local university in Manhattan. He brings home books for his daughter, Sonya, which help educate her and give way to daydreams of far-off places in their cramped Bronx apartment. She learns she has received a scholarship to study in England. Will her immigrant father, a survivor of war and his wife’s death, be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to let his daughter, his only family, go? Will Sonya finally be allowed to see the world she’s only read about in her father’s books?

Sonya: Marlen Nahhas
Dara: Alexandra Nowakowski
Sam: Samuel J. Weiser


Music by Michael Lanci
Libretto by Kim Davies

They’re the perfect American family: Mother, a TV star...Father, a business tycoon...their kids on track to go to the best colleges. But one night Mother and Father come home and have to explain to their kids that there’s been a little misunderstanding, maybe a little money laundering, maybe an indictment. And suddenly their plans aren’t quite so on-track after all...

Daughter: Marlen Nahhas
Son: Matthew Pearce
Mother: Amanda Bottoms
Father: William Meinert


Night Trip
Music by Carlos Simon
Libretto by Sandra Seaton

On a July evening in 1958, Wesley and Mack, black World War II veterans, arrive at their sister’s apartment in Chicago to pick up their niece. Conchetta has been waiting all summer to see her relatives—her grandmother, her aunts, her “play aunts.” The 16-year-old’s vision of small town life in Tennessee stands in sharp contrast to the world of steel and concrete she is about to leave. On her journey, she comes face to face with a new reality, one that her uncles, who have survived the brutality of war, refuse to accept. In Night Trip, a young girl’s dreams collide with harsh truths that will change the way she sees her world.

Conchetta: Rehanna Thelwell
Uncle Wesley: Joshua Conyers
Uncle Mack: Joshua Blue
Gas Station Attendant: Matthew Pearce
Police Office: Samson McCrady

“Short-form chamber opera appears to be the wave of operatic future,” said the Washington Post about our 2015 world premiere presentations. "The young members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program did themselves proud."

WNO’s acclaimed commissioning program for contemporary American opera enters its eighth exciting season, this season showcasing three new 20-minute operas. Our Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists and other talented performers will be featured, guided by program director Robert Ainsley. Award-winning composer Laura Kaminsky, acclaimed librettist Kelley Rourke, and renowned conductor Anne Manson will be the mentors for the AOI 20-Minute Operas. 

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. 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 Artist Q&A Date:
Fri., Jan. 10; following the 9 p.m. performance only