Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced full programming details for the fifth season of the American Opera Initiative, its comprehensive commissioning program that brings contemporary American stories to the stage while fostering the talents of rising American composers and librettists. For the first time, all of the program's world premiere operas will be presented during an American Opera Initiative Festival weekend, January 13-15, 2017 in the Kennedy Center Family Theater. Three new pairings of opera composers and librettists- Frances Pollock and Vanessa Moody, Zach Redler and Jason Carlson, and Matthew Peterson and Emily Roller-will each offer new one-act operas, each based on a contemporary American story and inspired by the ideals often ascribed to President Kennedy as part of JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of President Kennedy. Two semi-staged concert performances of each opera will be presented on January 14, 2017. In addition, as previously announced, WNO will present the world premiere of a new hour-long work by composer Mohammed Fairouz and librettist Mohammed Hanif-The Dictator's Wife, based on Hanif's satirical play-on January 13 and 15, 2017.

"I'm excited to showcase four new American operas during our new festival weekend in January," said WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "I'm also proud that our commissioning program is a part of the Center-wide JFK centennial celebration this season. The creation of new opera-work that not only entertains but challenges and provokes new thoughts and ideas-is a fitting tribute to the legacy of President Kennedy and his inspirational ideals."

The three composer/librettist teams of the one-act operas will collaborate on their works with three distinguished mentors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American operas: composer John Musto (The Inspector, Later the Same Evening), librettist Gene Scheer (WNO's Moby-Dick, Cold Mountain), and conductor Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera Company). The composer/librettist teams have been working with their mentors and advisors throughout the creative process, and a full collaborative workshop with all the composers, librettists, mentors, and cast members is scheduled for October 2016 in Washington.

"This season's American Opera Initiative Festival will bring a diverse and accomplished group of musical storytellers to Washington, and they all have personal and powerful tales to tell," said Michael Heaston, the departing program director of the American Opera Initiative and WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. "For our gifted young artists, this is an incredible opportunity to see firsthand how new operas are created and to work directly with the composers and librettists, as well as our remarkable program mentors. Since most of the operatic canon is centuries old, this is a rare opportunity indeed. As we all look forward to the workshops in the fall, the program will continue to flourish under the new leadership of Robert Ainsley, who will see this cycle of exciting new works to completion."

New one-act operas expand the American repertory

The three original one-act operas presented in two semi-staged concert performances on January 14, 2017 will each highlight a different aspect of American life and culture, and each has been inspired and informed by the ideals often ascribed to President Kennedy. These new works will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra conducted by Steven Osgood and will be performed in English. Following each performance there will be a Q&A session with the artists and creative team. Full casting for the three one-act operas, featuring members of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young.


Music by Matthew Peterson

Libretto by Emily Roller

Three refugees are stranded in an inflatable lifeboat out in the open ocean; they are the sole survivors of a shipwreck. After three days, tensions erupt between the strangers, who each fled the same conflict for different reasons. As their pasts are revealed, cooperation-and survival-seem unlikely. Lifeboat explores and challenges the ideals of courage, social justice, and service; can these ideals overcome major divides between people of different backgrounds and experiences? Can we all live in the same boat? A JFKC Commission.