For Immediate Release
Contact: Patricia Kiernan Johnson;



New York, NY — OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, announces that four finalist teams have been chosen for its first Director-Designer Showcase.

As part of a continuing effort to foster emerging opera artists, the bi-annual Director-Designer Showcase seeks to benefit promising stage directors and designers interested in breaking into the world of opera. It is intended to bring new talent to the forefront and connect promising artists with those who are in a position to hire them. To be administered as part of OPERA America's Opera Fund, the inaugural Director-Designer Showcase is supported by a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Working from a diverse list of American operas, applicants were asked to complete a production concept, including an explanation of the staging; ideas and initial research for scenery, props and costumes; required personnel; and suggestions for adaptations and/or editing, if any. A total of 41 director-driven teams submitted proposals for consideration; four of these were selected as finalists.

Each finalist team will be given $1,000 to be used toward the production of renderings and models. Up to two representatives from each finalist team will be flown to OPERA America's Opera Conference 2009 in Houston to present their proposals to general and artistic directors at a special session.

"The Director-Designer Showcase supports talented emerging artists by providing them with unparalleled access at the Opera Conference to the field's decision-makers," stated Marc A. Scorca, president & CEO of OPERA America. "The production proposals displayed the remarkable range of talent and creativity of these young directors and designers. By highlighting these artists at the Showcase, OPERA America is proud to assist in furthering their careers."

The four finalist teams were selected by a panel that included Peter Dean Beck, designer; John Duykers, singer/teacher; Christopher Mattaliano, stage director/general director of Portland Opera; Diane Paulus, stage director and Darren K. Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera.

"I was astounded at the level of preparation and creativity of the applicants," declared Mr. Woods. "Most all of them had done mounds of research and then translated them into incredible images and drawings. I think the winning teams' projects could go directly from the page to the stage — they were that good."

OPERA America Director-Designer Showcase Finalists
  • Mourning Becomes ElectraAndrew Eggert, director; Anka Lupes, set and costume designer; Aaron Black, lighting designer
  • Florencia en el AmazonasLawrence Edelson, director; Martin T. Lopez, set and costume designer; Josh Epstein, lighting designer; Lauri Stallings, choreographer
  • AinadamarMike Donahue, director; Anya Klepikov, set and costume designer; Ji-Youn Chang, lighting designer; Sara Erde, choreographer; Daniel Vatsky, projection designer
  • Einstein on the BeachElise Sandell, director; Liz Freese, set and costume designer; Gordon W. Olson, lighting designer;
    Keturah Stickann, choreographer
As a core tenet of OPERA America's mission to support North American works, The Opera Fund and its precursor funding programs have awarded more than $10.5 million in grants to companies throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1983. The Opera Fund supports three areas: Repertoire Development — production of new operas; Audience Development — building appreciation of American works; and Artist Development — support of artists who create and interpret the repertoire. The Director-Designer Showcase is a component of The Opera Fund's Artist Development program.

The Opera Fund has been supported thus far by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Lloyd and Mary Ann Gerlach, Lee Day Gillespie, the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Opera Fund was launched in 2001 and the Director-Designer Showcase is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

In addition to selecting finalists, the panel recognized four additional noteworthy proposals:
  • Four Saints in Three ActsMichael Rau, director; Sara Walsh, set designer; Jessica Pabst, costume designer; Derek Wright, lighting designer
  • Einstein on the BeachGregory Keller, director; Dipu Gupta, set and lighting designer; Melissa Schlactmeyer, costume designer;
    Brady Paul, choreographer
  • AinadamarJoseph Cermatori, director; Michael Locher, set designer; Paul Carey, costume designer; Burke Brown, lighting designer; Stephanie Ybarra, producer
  • X — The Life and Times of Malcolm XEric Einhorn, director; Kathryn Kawecki, set designer; Candida K. Nichols, costume designer



OPERA America leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.

  • Artistic services help opera companies and creative and performing artists to improve the quality of productions and increase the creation and presentation of North American works.
  • Information, technical, and administrative services to opera companies reflect the need for strengthened leadership among staff, trustees and volunteers.
  • Education, audience development and community services are designed to enhance all forms of opera appreciation.

Founded in 1970, OPERA America’s worldwide membership network includes nearly 200 Company Members, 300 Associate and Business Members, 2,000 Individual Members and more than 16,000 subscribers to the association’s electronic news service. In 2005, OPERA America relocated from Washington, D.C. to New York as the first step in creating the first-ever National Opera Center. With a wide range of artistic and administrative services in a purpose-built facility, the Opera Center is dedicated to increasing the level of excellence, creativity and effectiveness across the field.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund, a growing endowment which allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. Since its inception, OPERA America has made grants of nearly $11 million to assist companies with the expenses associated with the creation and development of new works.