American Lyric Theater Announces Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative

Today American Lyric Theater has announced the Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative as part of an ongoing commitment to mentoring the next generation of operatic writers. In consultation with an Advisory Committee comprised of BIPOC artists and related experts in the field, through the OWDARI, ALT is examining every part of the company’s operations with the goal of addressing structural inequality and racism and increasing participation by BIPOC artists in the company’s flagship Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP).

First steps in OWDARI include the appointment of conductor Kelly Kuo as ALT’s new Associate Artistic Director and the creation of a free, virtual Opera Writers Symposium, a series of workshops and mini-seminars open to writers and composers from diverse racial and artistic backgrounds to explore opera as a storytelling art form. No previous experience in writing opera is necessary.”In order to address the artistic vitality of the field and the diversity of works being produced, we must address who is being trained and given the opportunity to write new operas,” says ALT’s Founder Lawrence Edelson. “Through the lens of the OWDARI, our goal is to address structural inequality and increase participation in ALT’s training and commissioning programs by BIPOC artists. We must acknowledge the past to give voice to the future. ALT is committed to racial justice through action to ensure that the work we do reflects the vibrancy of contemporary American society. I am thrilled to welcome Kelly Kuo to ALT in the newly created post of Associate Artistic Director, where his expertise and passion for mentoring the next generation of artists will help to shape ALT’s programs and foster the writers who will help to define the future of American opera.”

Conductor Kelly Kuo’s appointment to ALT’s newly created post of Associate Artistic Director is key to OWDARI. In this role, Kuo will share artistic and curatorial responsibilities with founder Lawrence Edelson. Praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “a leader of exceptional musical gifts, who has a clear technique on the podium and an impressive rapport with audiences,” conductor, pianist and coach Kelly Kuo has performed over 90 operas – including numerous world premieres – and countless works of the symphonic repertoire. Kuo was the first conductor of Asian descent to lead a performance at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, making his company debut with Porgy and Bess. He has since returned to lead the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker‘s Yardbird and performances featuring artists of the Ryan Opera Center. Other recent operatic engagements have included Seattle Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Kentucky Opera, Anchorage Opera, and the Janiec Opera Company of the Brevard Music Center.

“It is a privilege to be welcomed as a collaborator at a time when American Lyric Theater is intentionally seeking to expand participation and contributions from the BIPOC community,” says Kelly Kuo. “We have to continually ask ourselves how we can do more. It takes a village in any situation to produce a successful artist. The OWDARI is as much about addressing the village as it is about addressing future artists – the recruiting, the marketing, the research, engagement, financial support – all of these are typical barriers in reaching the BIPOC community.Through the OWDARI, ALT is establishing a support system that makes the creation of opera a more viable choice for future generations of BIPOC composers and librettists. It is an honor to be a part of the ALT team going forward, because I truly believe we win – not only as a country, but as humanity – when racial diversity is embraced.”Kuo will be one of the distinguished artists leading American Lyric Theater’s virtual CLDP Opera Writers Symposium, a free, eight-week, virtual series of mini-seminars and online workshops running from February 27 – April 24, 2021. The symposium will provide practical tools for both first-time and experienced artists with an interest in developing new works for the operatic stage. The courses will also offer artists a glimpse into American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), a two-year, tuition-free professional training program for writers interested in creating new operas that includes extensive mentorship and direct financial support.The CLDP Opera Writers Symposium is free and open to artists from all genres interested in learning about writing for the operatic stage. Classes will address topics such as Dramatizing History and Opera as Activism led by composer Anthony Davis and dramaturg Cori Ellison; Opera, Technology and Innovation with composers Kamala Sankaram and Jorge Sosa; From Erased to Self-Empowered: Celebrating BIPOC Opera Composers and Librettists led by Kelly Kuo and The Architecture of Opera led by Composer/Librettist Mark Adamo. Guest speakers during the symposium include composers Missy Mazzoli, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Huang Ruo and Errollyn Wallen; and librettists Mark Campbell, Thulani Davis, David Henry Hwang, and Andrea Davis Pinkney. More class information is below and at funding for American Lyric Theater’s Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative and the 2021 Opera Writers Symposium has been provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from OPERA America Innovation Grants supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.


FEBRUARY 27 – APRIL 24, 2021

The CLDP Opera Writers Symposium mini-seminars and workshops each consist of two or three online classes. All that is required to participate is a computer or tablet with an internet connection. Artists may register for the entire symposium, or for specific seminars and workshops that are of interest to them. The CLDP Opera Writers Symposium is completely free, but advance registration is required for each seminar. Further details can be found at


Led by ALT Faculty Mentor, Composer / Librettist Mark Adamo

Saturday, February 27, 2021 @ Noon – 3pm ET
Saturday, March 13, 2021 @ Noon – 3pm ET
Saturday, March 27, 2021 @ Noon – 3pm ET

ALT principal faculty mentor Mark Adamo developed a unique outlining method while writing his first, critically-acclaimed opera, Little Women, now exclusively taught as a foundational part of the Composer Librettist Development Program. Learn how to use this practical process, which centers the collaborative relationship between composer and librettist through the creation of parallel outlines by each writer before a note of the music or a word of the libretto has been written.


Led by ALT Faculty Mentors Composer Anthony Davis and Dramaturg Cori Ellison
With composer Jeremy Howard Beck and Laura Kaminsky; and librettists Thulani Davis, Stephanie Fleischmann, Kimberly Reed, and Mark Campbell; and memoirist Brian Castner

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Thursday, March 11, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET

From Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Francesco Busenello’s The Coronation of Poppea to Anthony Davis and Richard Wesley‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Central Park Five, opera has always been an extraordinary mirror in which to reflect and challenge social, historical, and political events. This seminar and workshop will explore how composers and librettists have reflected historic and contemporary events through the lens of opera; how opera has and can serve as a form of political activism and social justice; best practices for historical research and conducting subject interviews; and the use of abstraction and allegory in dramatizing history.


Led by ALT Alumni, Composers Kamala Sankaram and Jorge Sosa
With user experience designer Richard Rodkin, sound designer Jon Robertson, director Elena Araoz, designer Jeanette Oi Suk Yew, conductor Maria Sensi Sellner, and librettist Rob Handel

Monday, March 22, 2021 @ 7:30pm ET
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 @ 7:30pm ET
Friday, March 26, 2021 @ 7:30pm ET

Technology has helped to shape opera throughout its history. From the evolution of the different instruments through advances in theater design – from the invention of amplification through augmented reality and new channels of digital delivery – advances in technology provide artists with new and ever-evolving tools to tell their stories. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has catalyzed the use of virtual technology in opera, breaking down boundaries for audiences and artists alike. In this workshop, Kamala Sankaram and Jorge Sosa – two of the most innovative composers working with the intersection of tech and opera – will explore some of the most exciting and increasingly accessible tools that are available to opera writers in creating new works.


Led by ALT’s Associate Artistic Director, Kelly Kuo
With composers Daniel Bernard Roumain, Justine F. Chen, Anthony Davis, Huang Ruo, and Errollyn Wallen; and librettists Richard Wesley, David Henry Hwang, Kanika Ambrose, and Andrea Davis Pinkey

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Wednesday, April 7, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Thursday, April 8, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ETSaturday, April 10, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET – CONCERT

BIPOC artists have written for operas for centuries, but until recently, most of their contributions to the repertoire were consciously erased from the opera house. We take a look back at the history of BIPOC writers in opera, and are then joined by a group of remarkable BIPOC composers and librettists changing the face of opera today to discuss why they are drawn to opera; navigating racism in the field; and the complementary value of allyship and self-empowerment in advancing their work. The seminar concludes with a virtual concert on Saturday, April 10 celebrating operas by BIPOC composers and librettists from the 18th century to today.


Led by Entertainment Lawyer James Kendrick
With ALT’s Founder Lawrence Edelson, and music publishing guests TBA

Saturday, April 17, 2021 @ 4pm – 6pm ET
Sunday, April 18t, 2021 @ 4pm – 6pm ET

Composers and librettists need to know their rights, and they need to understand the law. In this two-day seminar taught by James Kendrick, one of the country’s leading intellectual property lawyers who has specialized in music publishing and advising creatives in the opera industry for over 30 years, composers and librettists will receive an understandable overview of intellectual property law and the issues surrounding the creation and of new operas.


Led by dramaturg Cori Ellison and ALT’s Founder Lawrence Edelson
With composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek; composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Rob Handel; composer Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell; composer David Hanlon and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann; and composer Huang Ruo and librettist David Henry Hwang

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET
Thursday, April 22, 2021 @ 7:30pm – 9:00pm ET

Opera is the ultimate collaborative art – but what makes a successful collaboration, and how can one best navigate collaborative relationships when things get rocky? This three-part seminar explores how some of the most successful composer-librettist teams have ensured that their collective vision of the story they wanted to tell through opera could be effectively realized. The roles of both dramaturgs and directors in the creation of new works will also be explored, and how the different backgrounds, perspectives and approaches of these artists can best be leveraged at the ideal point in each opera’s development.


Led by ALT’s Founder Lawrence Edelson and ALT’s Associate Artistic Director Kelly Kuo
With CLDP alumni composers and librettist
Saturday, April 24, 2021 @ 4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

The CLDP Opera Writers Symposium was created to provide you with a taste of what we do at ALT. During this information session and roundtable, ALT’s artistic leadership team, along with recent alumni of the program, will share details of the CLDP structure, schedule, and experience. Please note that applications for the 2021-2023 CLDP cycle are due May 1, 2021.

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