AMERICAN LYRIC THEATER (ALT) Announces Three-Year Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation To Support Composer Librettist Development Program

American Lyric Theater (ALT) has been selected as a recipient of a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the amount of $90,000. The grant will provide multi-year program support for the Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), ALT’s core initiative to provide professional mentorship to gifted emerging operatic writers, as well as capacity-building support, which will enable ALT to improve its infrastructure and provide the foundation for a sustainable future as a long-term contributor to the opera field.

Historically, the Mellon Foundation’s support for opera has focused on a small number of companies demonstrating a longstanding commitment to advancing the art form through the presentation of ambitious new works or those rarely heard. Recently, the Foundation has expanded its support to companies at the forefront of finding ways to improve the developmental process for creating, producing, revising, and reviving new operas; developing collaborative partnerships with their peers and with other community and cultural institutions; and exploring new uses of technology in opera production and in audience engagement.

“American Lyric Theater provides a unique and invaluable service to composers, librettists and their works in the very early stages of development. The creation of a new opera is a long process that benefits from support at every phase. I am delighted that ALT’s important role in that process has been affirmed by this grant from the Mellon Foundation,” said Marc A. Scorca, President and CEO of OPERA America.

Lawrence Edelson, American Lyric Theater’s founder and Producing Artistic Director explained, “in developing ALT’s programs, we took a hard look at what already exists in the field. We identified a real absence of integrated programs that provide an extended period of time for emerging composers and librettists to collaborate and be immersed in an environment dedicated solely to their artistic development – to focus on skills and process as opposed to solely the end product – and, that also help to bridge the gap between training, workshops, and the realities of writing an opera for production at a professional producing company.”

The CLDP is a tuition-free initiative for emerging composers and librettists selected through an open, competitive application process. The program includes a core curriculum of classroom training and hands-on workshops with some of the country’s leading working artists, including composer/librettist Mark Adamo, composer Daniel Catán, composer Anthony Davis, dramaturg Cori Ellison, librettist Michael Korie, and stage director Rhoda Levine. In addition to ongoing classes and workshops, artists in the program take part in residency observerships at New York City Opera. Through this partnership, the CLDP is able to provide writers the opportunity to explore the process of mounting fully staged operatic productions. CLDP classes and workshops take place at OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, providing exceptional workshop facilities and additional opportunities for Resident Artists to expand their professional network. The CLDP is designed to provide customized mentorship to artists from a wide variety of backgrounds. ALT’s mandate includes mentoring artists with classical training, as well as those with non-traditional / non-classical backgrounds who have a passionate interest in writing for the opera stage. Based on the quality of applicants each year, ALT accepts up to eight artists to participate in year one of the Program. Selected artists are invited to continue their residency with ALT after their first year to receive private mentorship as they work towards developing full-length works.

“No one else is doing this,” explained composer and librettist Mark Adamo, Director of Professional Development for ALT. “No masters program offers composers a major in the field. Aspiring librettists can study music-theatre writing on the graduate level, but their work will draw overwhelmingly from the commercial and non-profit theatre, leaving unexamined the substantial differences that remain between the theatre and the opera house. Only ALT is taking new opera as a serious and ongoing concern for writers; which means that only ALT is investing in the really new, as opposed to the merely chic. Only new work – a groundswell of it – can keep opera healthy. Only new writers – skilled new writers – can make new work. ALT wants to grow those writers. That’s the Composer Librettist Development Program’s goal: and it’s as urgent as it is distinctive.”

Current First Year Resident Artists in the CLDP include librettists Tony Asaro, Rochelle Bright, and David Simpatico; and composers Clint Borzoni, Christopher Cerrone, Gerald Cohen, and Justine F. Chen. Returning artists include composer Jorge Sosa, who is working on La Reina, a bilingual (Spanish/English) opera for acoustic and electronic performing forces; as well as composers Jeff Myers, Jay Anthony Gach, and Patrick Soluri, and librettists Quincy Long, Royce Vavrek, and Deborah Brevoort, who are working on The Poe Project, a trilogy of one-act operas recently commissioned by ALT, inspired by the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe.

Applications for the 2011-2012 CLDP are being accepted by ALT from March 1 to June 1, 2011. Application information is available online at

Applications are welcome from any emerging composer or librettist who is a U.S. Citizen or legal resident. Artists may apply individually to the program or as a member of a writing team. ALT defines an emerging opera Composer or Librettist as someone who has acquired significant skills as a composer and/or librettist (or playwright) through academic study, practice, and professional experience; who demonstrates a unique and important musical and/or theatrical perspective that could benefit from intense mentorship as part of the CLDP; and who has not yet had a work commissioned or performed by a professional opera company in the United States. Their work in other genres may have been performed professionally, as ALT’s definition of emerging applies specifically to an artist’s development as a writer for the opera stage. Students of degree granting institutions are not eligible for consideration. There are no age restrictions for participation.


Founded in 2005 by Lawrence Edelson, American Lyric Theater’s mission is to build a new body of operatic repertoire for new audiences by nurturing composers and librettists, developing sustainable artistic collaborations, and contributing new works to the national canon. While the traditional opera company model focuses on producing a season, ALT’s programs focus on serving the needs of composers and librettists, developing new works, and collaborating with larger producing companies to help usher those works into the repertoire.

In 2006, ALT commissioned its first main stage work: The Golden Ticket, a new opera based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by American composer Peter Ash. After Ash and his librettist partner, Donald Sturrock, began independent development of this opera, ALT commissioned its completion with Felicity Dahl, and provided a supportive mentorship environment for three years. Under a new collaborative producing model, ALT developed a partnership with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to present the world premiere of The Golden Ticket, which took place in June 2010 to tremendous critical and audience acclaim. The European Premiere of The Golden Ticket took place in October 2010 at Ireland’s Wexford Festival Opera, and the opera will be presented by The Atlanta Opera in March 2012. In 2009, ALT initiated a second main stage commission, The Poe Project: a trilogy of one-act operas inspired by the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe being written by six Resident Artists from ALT’s Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP). Since launching the CLDP in 2007, ALT has provided intensive personalized mentorship to 17 gifted emerging artists. Currently, ALT is developing two additional full-length operas, and welcomed seven new Resident Artists to the CLDP in the 2010-11 season.

The Composer Librettist Development Program is made possible by generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The ASCAP Foundation – Joseph and Rosalie Meyer Fund and The Dorothy Loudon Foundation.

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