Skip to main content

New Works Collective

Open Call

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis believes true representation on our stages and within our creative teams requires thoughtful, intentional disruption to the established commissioning process. The New Works Collective is a three-year commissioning cycle that will push the boundaries of opera by combining music and storytelling in powerful new ways. To adopt practices that ensure we are not only diverse in our programming but are also authentically inclusive, the New Works Collective initiative is guided by a group of St. Louis community members who will shape an open call for commissions, review submissions, and annually select three projects for development. 

FAQs

New Works Collective members

 

The application cycle for the 2023-24 New Works Collective is now closed.

If you have questions about the New Works Collective, please email newworkscollective@opera-stl.org.

First Cohort of Creators Selected!

Learn more about the six artists who make up our inaugural New Works Collective cohort and their original works being presented in March 2023.

Read more and get tickets

Inspired by Opera Theatre’s successful New Works, Bold Voices series, we recognize that bringing new voices into both the decision-making process and the creative process sparks exciting new work that sustains the vibrancy and relevancy of opera. 

Recent full-length commissions have included:  

Champion

(2013, Blanchard/Cristofer)

Based on the life of African-American boxer Emile Griffith.

27

(2014, Gordon/Vavrek)

Exploring the relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and the salons they hosted at their residence, 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris.

An American Soldier

(2018, Huang/Hwang)

Based on the true story of Chinese-American U.S. Army soldier Danny Chen who was subjected to racial harassment and beatings by his fellow soldiers. 

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

(2019, Blanchard/Lemmons)

Described as “opera in jazz,” this opera is based on the 2014 memoir by Charles M. Blow. 

Opera Theatre invites artists to submit their outline ideas for short (20-minute) operas to the New Works Collective through the open call. Artists selected through the open call will participate in four (4) residencies in St. Louis from March 2023 through March 2024 to develop, workshop, and stage their operas with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Through the New Works Collective and its creators, Opera Theatre will produce nine works across the next three years that amplify underrepresented voices and showcase opera as an inclusive form. Through each residency, artists will come together from the St. Louis region and across the United States to develop their original stories and musical expression for the stage, expand and redefine the operatic form, and deepen their understanding and connection to the St. Louis community. 

Objective:

  • To create and develop a 20-minute opera (defined as a story told through music/text) and participate in four (4) residencies in St. Louis between March 2023 and March 2024, concluding with a public performance of the work.  
  • To include new voices in the creation of opera.  

Selection Criteria

  • Artists with no previous experience in opera are welcome to apply.
  • Artist demonstrates excellence as evidenced by submitted samples of previous composition/writing and a developed voice in their chosen art form.   
  • Artist expresses interest and enthusiasm for opera as a form for storytelling and for their work.  
  • Artist has a compelling and original story idea in the form of a thorough pitch or outline that has the potential to be developed into a 20-minute work for the stage.  
  • Artist is committed to developing a 20-minute work that will be completed by January 1, 2024 and performed in March 2024 in St. Louis, MO. 
  • Stories that explore underrepresented voices in opera and on the stage are encouraged. 
  • One (1) of the three (3) composer/writer teams selected will be reserved for artists who are currently residing in the St. Louis region or who demonstrate a deep personal connection to the area.  The two (2) remaining composer/writer teams may come from St. Louis or elsewhere. 

 

2023-2024 Residency Dates

Artists who are selected should be prepared to commit to the following:  

  • March 17-20, 2023 (4 days): Introductory creative team gathering for 2024 Commissioning Cycle and active participation in Opera Theatre’s 2023 New Works Collective including attending performances and getting to know Opera Theatre’s artistic leadership. (On-site in St. Louis, MO)  
  • March-December 2023: New work development period for 2024 Commissioning Cycle. Each creative team will have regular check-ins with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis staff and director/dramaturg. (Frequency of check-ins to be determined with creative team input; no on-site requirements)
  • October 16-19, 2023 (4 days): Development work based on piano vocal score and midi files; local engagement with St. Louis community partner organizations (On-site in St. Louis, MO) 
  • December 5-9, 2023 (5 days): Workshop for 2024 Commissioning Cycle with a final reading/work-through open to invited guests. (On-site in St. Louis, MO)  
  • January-March 2024: Final scores due (Jan 1, 2024) and preparatory calls/meetings with stage director, design team, and music director in preparation for March 2024 performances. Each creative team will have regular check-ins with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis staff and director/dramaturg. (Frequency of check-ins to be determined with creative team input; no on-site requirements)  
  • Approximate dates: February 26-March 16, 2024 for rehearsal and performances – final dates to be confirmed: Public performances of 2024 Commissioning Cycle. (On-site in St. Louis, MO)

Project Deadlines

  • May 1, 2023: Working Outline of Libretto Due
  • June 1, 2023: First Draft Libretto Due
  • July 1, 2023: Final Libretto Due
  • September 1, 2023: Working Draft of Musical (Piano/Vocal) Score and Midi Files Due
  • November 1, 2023: Final Musical (Piano/Vocal) Score and Midi Files Due 
  • January 1, 2024: Final Materials (Orchestral Score/Parts and Piano Vocal Score) Due
  • March 14-16, 2024: Performances 

Compensation & Residency Travel/Housing

  • Composer and librettist will each receive $10,000 (tied to project deadlines) for their time and work in developing their 2023-24 commissioning project.  
  • For applicants residing outside of the St. Louis area, travel and housing will be provided for on-site residencies.

Apply

FAQs

 

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

Frequently Asked Questions

How does OTSL define opera for purposes of the New Works Collective? 

Opera creates an opportunity for audiences to share a collective experience that utilizes the powerful combination of music and words to tell a story.    

 

Who is encouraged to submit an application through the open call? 

Composers and writers who have developed their craft through study, practice, or professional experience.  Applicants should demonstrate a unique musical and/or theatrical perspective and be interested in experimenting with musical style, length, form, genre, and audience involvement.  Successful applicants will be eager to explore opera as a means of storytelling and excited to participate in a collaborative process of developing and creating art. Opera Theatre welcomes artists from all genres. 

 

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to apply?

You do not need to be a U.S. citizen, but must be authorized to work in the United States in order to apply and/or participate in the 2023-2024 Collective Residency.

 

Is previous experience in opera a requirement to apply? 

No. We welcome artists specializing in any genre or style of musical writing and/or storytelling.  

 

How will artists be selected? 

The New Works Collective is guided by a group of St. Louis community members who will shape the open call, review applications submitted, and annually select projects for development and production. Three works will be selected in each open call. 

Learn more about the New Works Collective members

 

Can I submit an opera that has already been produced elsewhere?

No. We are seeking new and original works which have not been produced professionally elsewhere. We expect your project to be developed during the year-long period.  

 

If I am a musician or writer without a creative partner, may I still apply? 

Yes. Opera Theatre will help facilitate an introduction to a potential creative partner who can provide words or music for your project, depending on your needs.  

 

What can I expect if selected? 

Opera Theatre’s artistic team will work with you from the time of selection to outline benchmarks for development of your piece, opportunities for early review and feedback, and collaboration with other artists who can help inform your process. OTSL will workshop your piece with appropriate artists/musicians in December 2023 and will stage a professional production of your opera in March 2024.

 

What are the expectations around the final production and musical forces available to me as a creator? 

Opera Theatre will produce the three commissioned works together in one program in March 2024. The commissions will be staged with minimal production elements in a black box-style venue. Each of the three works will be approximately 20 minutes and should be composed for no more than 6-8 singers and 10-12 musicians.  Because the works will be performed together, the commissioned artists will be encouraged to work together to identify voice types and musical forces that will collectively serve the needs of the group.

 

If I am selected, how will I be compensated for my work?  

Composer and librettist will each receive $10,000 (tied to project deadlines) for their time and work in developing their 2023-2024 residency commission project. For applicants residing outside of the St. Louis area, travel and housing will be provided for on-site residency periods.  

 

Is there a fee to submit my application? 

No, Opera Theatre is committed to keeping the application process free.  

 

Do I need to have a complete 20-minute composition and/or libretto when I apply? 

No, but you will need to have a clear pitch or outline, and you will need to show samples of previous work.  

 

What are the criteria being used to review applications? 

Interest in opera as an art form, excellence in your chosen art form (whether or not that form is opera), and a great story to tell. Specific selection criteria include: 

 

  • Artists with no previous experience in opera are welcome to apply.
  • Artist demonstrates excellence as evidenced by submitted samples of previous composition/writing and a developed voice in their chosen art form.   
  • Artist expresses interest and enthusiasm for opera as a form for storytelling and for their work.  
  • Artist has a compelling and original story idea in the form of a thorough pitch or outline that has the potential to be developed into a 20-minute work for the stage.  
  • Artist is committed to developing a 20-minute work that will be completed by January 1, 2024 and performed in March 2024 in St. Louis, MO. 
  • Stories that explore underrepresented voices in opera and on the stage are encouraged.  

 

Incomplete applications will not be considered. 

 

Do I need to live in St. Louis? If not, what are the expectations for being present in St. Louis? 

One (1) of the three (3) composer/writer teams selected will be reserved for artists who are currently residing in the St. Louis region or who demonstrate a deep personal connection to the area.  The two (2) remaining composer/writer teams may come from St. Louis or elsewhere. All selected artists will have to be on-site for four residencies between March 2023 and March 2024:  

  • March 2023: resident artists will come and meet us and get to know OTSL and the Collective.
  • October 2023: artists will travel to St. Louis for development of their work and to engage with St. Louis community partner organizations
  • December 2023: there will be a workshop of the 20-minute opera with artists.   
  • March 2024: there will be rehearsals leading up to the performance of the work.  

 

What is the time period for accepting applications? 

Opera Theatre will accept applications for the 2023-2024 commissioning cycle from September 23-November 16, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. CST. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit 5-7 days prior to the deadline to ensure materials are uploaded correctly and received by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. We are happy to assist with questions but may not be able to respond to all inquiries as the November 11 deadline nears.  

 

What should I expect after I apply?

You should receive a confirmation email with details of your application immediately following your submission. All applicants will be informed of the results of their application by February 24, 2023. The selection process will be a two-step process. Approximately 10 creative teams or artists will be invited to an interview round with Collective members and Opera Theatre staff. Interviews may take place in-person or virtually, depending on the applicant’s location. Finalists selected for the interview round who are seeking creative partners will have an additional interview scheduled to discuss creative partnership options. Feedback will be available to finalists by request upon completion of the selection process.

 

Who should I contact if I have questions about the application form or process? 

Please email newworkscollective@opera-stl.org with questions.