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'New Works, Bold Voices' equal new works for Opera Theatre

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 2, 2012 - Continuing its tradition of being the foremost American opera company to present new work, Opera Theatre of St. Louis' general director Timothy O'Leary and his staff have obtained a $1 million grant to add three new works to the world of opera's roster. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation challenge grant has enabled the company to commission and plan to present a three-year cycle of world premieres by American composers.

The company is calling the cycle “New Works, Bold Voices.”

Composers Ricky Ian Gordon and Jack Perla have been commissioned to write two new operas adding to the company's widely anticipated 2013 world premiere, announced last spring, of New Orleans jazz great Terence Blanchard's "jazz style" opera, "Champion. Its libretto is by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cristofer. Jazz St. Louis is co-commissioning this work.

The following spring the company will present "Twenty-Seven" by Ricky Ian Gordon with a libretto by Michael Korie. Then, in the 2015 spring festival season, the company will present the world premiere of "Shalimar the Clown" by Jack Perla, based on Salman Rushdie's novel of the same name.

The Mellon Foundation funding will not cover all costs, and OTSL will seek funding more widely.

Casting for the cycle has begun and includes two mezzo-sopranos, Denyce Graves in "Champion" and Stephanie Blythe in "Twenty-Seven." Casting and collaborators for 2015’s "Shalimar the Clown" are not set yet.

“Opera has lately entered an exuberant era of new works,” said O’Leary, “and Opera Theatre is excited to build on a 37-year tradition of adventurous programming.”

Patricia Rice covers opera for the St. Louis Beacon.

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who has covered religion for many years. She also writes about cultural issues, including opera.