New Works Initiative


A pioneering movement in new opera when it was launched in 2008, Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative (NWI) continues to invigorate the operatic art form with an infusion of contemporary works, while fulfilling the company’s commitment to artistic growth, leadership, and innovation. 2022’s world premiere of Edward Tulane (by composer Paola Prestini and librettist Mark Campbell) marks the latest opera created through the NWI, a seven-year, $7 million program designed to invigorate the opera repertoire with an infusion of new and contemporary works. Through this Initiative the contemporary works we champion will be given life well beyond these performances in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Opera recently announced the engagement of six artists who will pioneer the next phase in the company’s New Works Initiative over the next several seasons. The Initiative’s new commissioning model fosters long-term creative partnerships that will invigorate the operatic art form with a diverse infusion of contemporary vocal works. The result will be nine works total: three operas to premiere at the Ordway, three operas to premiere at the Luminary Arts Center, and three song cycles. 

The New Works Initiative creative cohort includes composers B.E Boykin, David Hanlon, and Kamala Sankaram, and librettists Minita Gandhi, Harrison David Rivers, and John de los Santos.  

The six artists involved in this program will collaborate in each composer/librettist combination in turn to collectively create three full-scale operas to premiere at the Ordway, three chamber operas to premiere at the Luminary Arts Center, and three song cycles that will premiere over the next several seasons. The commissioning cycle will include engagement and development opportunities for the cohort to nurture these artistic offerings and encourage deeper relationships with the company throughout the process.  

“New works are the lifeblood of any artform, and Minnesota Opera is proud of our organization’s contributions to our community and the field,” said MN Opera President and General Director Ryan Taylor. “This evolution of our New Works Initiative represents a long-term commitment to the vitality and creative output of the six artists we are fortunate enough to engage as a cohort. Commissioning these new pieces from accomplished creators representing an intentionally broad range of lived experiences will diversify the operatic canon, speaking directly to MN Opera’s artistic and diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. We are excited to see what new discoveries will emerge from this talented group of artists as we pursue our vision to ‘sing every story.’”  

New Works Initiative History

NWI supported the American premiere of Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio; revivals of Dominick Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming, The Dream of Valentino and Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights; the commission of Doubt, composed by Douglas J. Cuomo with libretto by John Patrick Shanley; and The Manchurian Candidate, and Silent Night both composed by Kevin Puts with libretto by Mark Campbell. In May of 2016, Minnesota Opera presented the world premiere of The Shining, composed by Paul Moravec with a libretto by Mark Campbell and based on the novel by Stephen King. Dinner at Eight, composed by William Bolcom with a libretto by Mark Campbell and based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, had its world premiere on Saturday, March 11, 2017. The Fix by composer Joel Puckett and librettist Eric Simonson based on the true story of the 1919 “Black Socks Scandal” surrounding the 1919 World Series. The opera had its world premiere on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

Minnesota Opera (originally known as Center Opera) came into being in 1963 with a world premiere of Dominick Argento’s opera Masque of Angels, produced on the brand new stage of the Guthrie Theater.  For decades, Minnesota Opera’s commitment to new and contemporary opera made it a rarity in the world of American opera. A landmark National Endowment for the Arts study in 1985 revealed that Minnesota Opera was the only company that year to produce a new work.

Fortunately, the landscape has changed. Now, new American opera has never been more popular. Minnesota Opera is grateful to its audience for nearly a half-century of support of new and contemporary opera. The New Works Initiative has been guided and supported by the committee listed on this page. They have helped the company deepen its role as a leader in the production of new work.


Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative Committee

Margaret Wurtele, Chair
Karen Bachman
Wendy Bennett
Alberto Castillo
Burt Cohen
Jane Confer
Judy Dayton
Jock Donaldson
John Huss
Ruth Huss
Diane Jacobson
Robert Marx
Kay Ness
Jenny Lind Nilsson
Elizabeth Redleaf
Linda Singh
David Smith
Norrie Thomas
Mary Vaughan
H. Bernt von Ohlen

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