The Kennedy Center

American Opera Initiative

Application Information

Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative (AOI) provides emerging composers and librettists who have not yet received a major operatic commission with the opportunity to compose operatic works under the guidance of expert mentors. Emerging artists, recent graduates, and current students are encouraged to apply. Three composer-librettist teams will each receive commissions for a twenty-minute operatic work to be performed by singers from the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and members of the Washington National Opera Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Composers are invited to suggest potential librettist collaborators, who will then be invited to submit an application to the program; librettists may also apply independently. Both composers and librettists will be selected by the mentor team and WNO based on individual merit, and desired pairings will be kept as a unit only when both members of the pair are selected for the program — all candidates should also be willing to explore new collaborations.

Mentors for the 2019-20 season are:

  • Composer Mentor: Laura Kaminsky (composer of As One, Some Light Emerges)
  • Librettist Mentor: Kelley Rourke (WNO Dramaturg; librettist of Lucy, Odyssey, Robin Hood)
  • Conductor Mentor: Anne Manson (Founding AOI mentor; Music Director, Manitoba Symphony Orchestra)

Applications for the 2019-20 AOI 20 Program are now closed.

2018-2019 Program Deadlines

Subject to change

December 16, 2018
Composer applications due
January 2, 2019
Librettist applications due
February 1, 2019
Teams selected and notified
February 18, 2019
Libretto initial outlines due
March 18, 2019
Libretto outlines approved
April 8, 2019
First draft of libretto due
April 29, 2019
Libretto approved
July 22, 2019 
First draft of piano vocal score due
September 2, 2019
Revised/workshop piano vocal score due
September 18-21, 2019
Piano workshop in Washington, DC
November 12, 2019
Final score and parts delivered to WNO
January 2-10, 2020
Final rehearsal/world premiere performances

Application Instructions

To apply, follow these steps:

Step 1: Send an email to to request an application, contact information, and Dropbox link.

Step 2: Once you receive the application form and Dropbox link, send another email with the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Up-to-date Résumé/CV
  • Upload 3-5 compositions (with accompanying audio/MIDI and full scores) or written excerpts to Dropbox. More specific information on acceptable and appropriate materials for both composers and librettists will be sent in response to the initial e-mail.

For more information about the program, email

All materials for composers must be submitted by December 16, 2018

All materials for librettists must be submitted by January 2, 2019

All applicants will receive an e-mail confirmation of receipt of their application.