Skip to main content

Our ticketing and donation systems are temporarily unavailable due to a global IT outage. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Press Release: March 28, 2024

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Announces 2025 Creative Cohort of the New Works Collective

Community-led panel selects six composers and librettists for the third year of OTSL’s acclaimed New Works Collective cycle

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) has unveiled a riveting lineup of world premieres for the 2025 New Works Collective.Marking its third year of a three-year commissioning cycle, the highly lauded New Works Collective stands as a catalyst for innovative, community-driven programming within the American opera scene. This initiative solicited nationwide applications from aspiring creatives before submitting all entries to a community panel for adjudication. A group of ten St. Louis citizens independently interviewed and selected the six artists who will create new operas in 2025.

Blake Hernton
Concert Black

Composer

Alicia Revé Like
Alicia Revé Like

Librettist

Meilina Tsui
Meilina Tsui

Composer

Melisa Tien
Melisa Tien

Librettist

Dr. Timothy Amukele

Composer

Jarrod Lee
Jarrod Lee

Librettist

The three teams are made up of composer Concert Black and librettist Alicia Revé Like, composer Meilina Tsui and librettist Melisa Tien, and composer Tim Amukele and librettist Jarrod Lee. They will work closely with a stage director and collaborate with OTSL’s artistic leadership and staff to develop and workshop their 20-minute operas. All three pieces will then be performed as one suite of works on Feb. 68, 2025.

It’s been a delight to see the boundaries of opera expand and grow these past two years, and we couldn’t be more excited about going into the third year with such an incredible team of creators,” said Andrew Jorgensen, General Director. “It will be our honor to bring their stories to our stage and share them with our community. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to extend our utmost gratitude to the St. Louis community members who served on this year’s selection panel; their thoughtfulness and care in choosing this cohort was remarkable. Our deepest thanks also go to the Mellon Foundation and the Edward Jones Foundation. Without their support, none of this would be possible. We’re grateful for their belief in our mission of making opera accessible for all.”

About the 2025 Cohort of the New Works Collective 

The first work of the 2025 New Works Collective is by composer Concert Black and librettist Alicia Revé Like. Their work will tell the story of Makena, a millennial Black woman struggling with loneliness. As she adjusts to life in a new city, Makena searches for friendship across book clubs, cooking classes, and beyond.  

Concert Black is a violinist, violist, and composer from North County, St. Louis. He has served school districts throughout St. Louis since 2017 as a music teacher and is currently the Director of Orchestras at Ritenour High School and Co-Chair of the E. Desmond Lee Festival Orchestra. His compositions have won awards from Chamber Project St. Louis, where he is a member of the Composer Incubator Program, as well as the St. Louis Underground Music Festival. In summer 2023, Concert Black premiered multiple pieces with the American Modern Ensemble with the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY. Librettist Alicia Revé Like is a St. Louis-based actor, singer, songwriter, and director. Her passion for storytelling has led to collaborations with various arts organizations including the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, The Muny, The Black Rep, COCA, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Metro Theater Company. In 2017, Like received a Theatre Circle Award for Supporting Actress in a Drama. As an independent artist, Like has written and composed music and created intimate concerts, both virtually and in-person, in the hopes of allowing people a space to connect, relate and be seen. 

The second opera in the 2025 New Works Collective is by composer Meilina Tsui and librettist Melisa Tien. Their opera tells the story of a Chinese father and daughter as they navigate life in America. As the teen daughter reaches for the seemingly unreachable prospect of college, her father is determined to help make her dreams come true.

Meilina Tsui is a Kazakhstan-born, Hong Kong-American composer, pianist, and educator. Her music uniquely combines elements of East Asian, Central Asian, and Western cultures. Tsui was recently awarded the OPERA America’s Opera Grant for Women Composers, the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and the University of Michigan ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award. She is the composer of the opera The Big Swim, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center, and is a recipient of the 2024 Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions. New York City-based librettist Melisa Tien is a playwright, lyricist, and opera librettist invested in making formally unconventional, socially relevant, and emotionally evocative work. A resident writer of New Dramatists, she is the librettist of operas Family Heirloom (Experiments in Opera, 2024), The Big Swim (Houston Grand Opera, 2024), Forever (Washington National Opera, 2024), Song of the Nightingale (On Site Opera, 2023), and The Beehive (University of Northern Iowa, 2023), and lyricist of the song cycles Swell (HERE, 2021) and Daylight Saving. 

Closing out the 2025 New Works Collective are composer Tim Amukele and librettist Jarrod Lee. Their opera is based on the true story of Amanirenas, the one-eyed queen who ruled the kingdom of Kush (modern-day Sudan) for decades. During her reign, Amanirenas did what few other rulers could: she resisted a Roman invasion, fought alongside her troops, and successfully preserved the independence of her nation.  

Tim Amukele is a medical doctor, in addition to a composer and arranger of vocal music. His commissions include “I Will Rise” by the New York Chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians; “What Sweeter Music,” a Christmas cantata by the Queen Anne Methodist Church; “Stand the Storm” for the American Spiritual Ensemble; and Spirit Moves, a community opera for the IN Series opera company in Washington, D.C. In 2023 he wrote Madman, a song cycle based on the parables of Khalil Gibran. Librettist Jarrod Lee’s work is influenced by his experience of being Black, gay, and American, adding to the canon of operas written by Black librettists. Past commissions include works for Alliance for New Music Theatre, IN Series, Finger Lakes Opera, and Washington National Opera. Collaborations include Journey to You and Spirit Moves with Dr. Timothy Amukele, Oshun and Two Corners with B.E. Boykin, Voices of Zion with Ronald Walton, and Black Flute with playwright Sybil Roberts in a deconstruction of The Magic Flute with English translations. 

About the New Works Collective

First announced in February 2022, Opera Theatre’s New Works Collective disrupts the traditional commissioning model for opera companies by giving decision-making power to its community through a collective of St. Louis residents. In establishing the collective, OTSL intentionally sought out individuals from backgrounds historically underrepresented in opera, including a mix of artists, arts leaders, storytellers, activists, and community advisors who reach far beyond classical music. 
 
The collective has selected three projects each year from 2023–2025 for OTSL to develop, workshop, and premiere. The New Works Collective brings new voices to the creative process and creates community partnerships that extend beyond a single project or production. The full list of New Works Collective panelists can be found at ExperienceOpera.org/NWCPanel. 
 
The first two years of the New Works Collective have proven a critical success, with tickets in high demand and glowing reviews from the press. BroadwayWorld.com wrote of the 2023 New Works Collective, “I’ve never seen an evening of opera that so toweringly rose above my expectations.” These performances continue to bring in higher-than-average numbers of new audiences for Opera Theatre, a testament to the power that new voices and stories have in uniting different segments of the community through art.

Leadership support for the New Works Collective comes from the Mellon Foundation and the Edward Jones Foundation.