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Opera Theatre of Saint Louis receives highest grant award of any U.S. opera company in the National Endowment for the Arts’ current grant cycle

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis receives highest grant award of any U.S. opera company in the National Endowment for the Arts’ current grant cycle 

 $100,000 award supports 2014 world premiere of “Twenty-Seven,” one of 817 NEA Art Works grants, totaling $26.3 million in funding nationwide

 St. Louis, MO, April 23, 2013 – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of 817 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. Opera Theatre is recommended for a $100,000 grant to support the world premiere of Twenty-Seven, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon and featuring Stephanie Blythe. Opera Theatre is the only opera company nationally to receive an award of this size for an Art Works project. The gift doubles the NEA’s previous year’s commitment to Opera Theatre, and matches the NEA’s earlier giving level to the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera from previous grant cycles. 


The grant will provide invaluable funding for the commission, development, and production of Twenty-Seven by composer Ricky Ian Gordon, which will be a highlight of Opera Theatre’s 2014 festival season.  The new opera will tell the story of the time Gertrude Stein spent in Paris, between World War I and World II.  The opera’s title – Twenty-Seven – reflects the address of her famous Parisian salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus, where Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Juan Gris, and F. Scott Fitzgerald gathered. Stein coined the phrase “the Lost Generation,” referring to the American and English writers who had come of age during World War I and spent the interwar period struggling to come to terms with what they had experienced while creating many of the great works of art that came to define the age of Modernism. 


Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe will perform the role of Gertrude Stein.  Ms. Blythe is an international star, performing repertory ranging from Handel to Wagner.  The New York Times recently wrote of her, “With each performance the American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe gives, it becomes increasingly apparent that a once-in-a-generation opera singer has arrived.”


Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable opportunities for the public to engage with the arts.”


Opera Theatre General Director Timothy O’Leary said, “We are deeply grateful for the long term support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and are honored to receive this grant. This is the second world premiere in our New Works, Bold Voices cycle that the NEA has generously funded.”


In August 2012, the NEA received 1,547 eligible applications for Art Works grants requesting more than $80 million in funding. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. The 817 recommended NEA grants total $26.3 million and span 13 artistic disciplines and fields. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.


For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis


Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company. Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit. 


Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit


Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2013 season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.


Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.


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