American Opera Initiative adds extra performance Wednesday

Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative presents annual event, premiering three 20-Minute Operas Wednesday night at the Terrace.

Kennedy Center at night.
JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at night. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2015 – The Washington National Opera (WNO) has added a second performance tonight of its annual American Opera Initiative short-opera world premiere series.

Attendance has been surprisingly good for this series over the past several seasons, so much so that demand for tickets this year prompted WNO’s decision to add an additional performance (at 9 p.m.) to the already scheduled 7 p.m. performance at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.

Operas in this series are written and composed by new, competitively chosen teams of composers and librettists interested in stretching their musical and writerly skills into the complex world of opera. Each opera has a limited cast and runs just 20 minutes, presenting both musical and plotting challenges for the new teams.

Operas are mounted with minimal staging—somewhere between traditional opera and concert opera—and are accompanied by a small chamber orchestra. Each year, soloists are chosen from the ranks of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists program, an in-house training-apprentice program for young singers that has already produced a number of rising talents in the opera firmament.

The idea behind the American Opera Initiative is, first, to provide an opportunity for interested composers and librettists to workshop operatic ideas in a short format before stretching out to the much greater challenge of creating full-length operas.

As with anything involving new music and new ideas, each year’s trio of offerings can, understandably, be hit or miss. That said, the three chosen teams each year have created offerings that have been surprisingly innovative, entertaining, instructive and quite musical—amazing after nearly a century of de rigeur atonal awfulness.

In other words, those considering tickets for this evening’s second performance should not be deterred. You never know what will happen.

This year’s short, world-premiere operas include:

“Twenty Minutes or Less” by Sarah Hutchings and Mark Sonnenblick.

A night of nights at the Pizza Queen for a new employee who’s worried about fitting in, doing the job right and finding a place in the human cosmos.

“Alexandra” by David Clay Mettens and Joshua McGuire.

A young widow tries to return a stolen library book liberated by her deceased husband, but confronts instead the keys to a possible time warp accessed via the book.

“Service Provider” by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos.

A modern comedy in which the marriage of a young couple competes with the omnipresence of mobile communications technology during their anniversary dinner.

What, when and where:

The American Opera Initiative’s annual evening of 20-minute operas will be performed twice on Wednesday evening at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. Curtain times: 7 p.m. and again at 9 p.m. The 7 p.m. performance is already sold out, according to a WNO press release, but tickets remain for the 9 p.m. performance.

Tickets: Bargain priced at $15 apiece, tickets are on sale now by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Alternatively, tickets may also be purchased via the Kennedy Center website.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17