American Academy of Arts and Letters Announces 2023 Awards

By Francisco Salazar

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the winners of the 2023 Charles Ives Opera Prize and the Marc Blitzstein Memorial Awards.

This year the $50,000 Charles Ives Opera Prize was awarded to “Artemisia” by composer Laura Elise Schwendinger and librettist Ginger Strand.

The opera is based on the life of 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi and premiered at the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in 2019 and received an OPERA America Discovery Grant. As a composer, Schwendinger will receive $35,000, and Strand, as librettist, will receive $15,000.

The $10,000 Marc Blitzstein Memorial Awards went to composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek.

The two will receive the award as an encouragement for the creation of works of merit for musical theater and opera.

Mazzoli and Vavrek have collaborated on the operas “Breaking the Waves,” “Proving Up,” “Songs from the Uproar,” and “The Listeners.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton.

For this year’s awards, the operas were nominated by the Academy’s members, and winners were chosen by a jury comprised of members John Harbison (chair), Anthony Davis, Tania León, Tobias Picker, and Shulamit Ran, who met in 2022. The awards, which will be given at the annual Ceremonial in May, “