Chicago Opera Theater Receives $500,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

By Nicole Kuchta

Chicago Opera Theater has received a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant will support the Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer Residency Program, the heart of COT’s Vanguard Initiative.

The Residency Program invites composers to join the company for a two-year study of opera-specific skills, with the goal of “bridging the gap between general compositional skills taught in university music programs and the real-world observation and experience that help inform an operatic composer’s work,” according to the press release. Composers have the opportunity to observe various processes of opera production, network and collaborate, and work closely with Vanguard Composer Mentor Jake Heggie.

“Composing an opera is among the most challenging of artistic undertakings,” stated COT Staley Music Director and newly appointed Vanguard Initiative Artistic Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. “In addition to being masters of shaping sound, opera composers must be exceptionally skilled at writing for the voice and adept at dramatic timing and flow. They must also have a clear understanding of the enormous collaborative mechanism essential for work to reach the stage and, crucially, be able to navigate the business side of the industry.”

The program’s first alumna, Stacy Garrop has described the program as a “godsend” and noted that the “wide range of activities COT designed for me opened my eyes to see opera from every angle.” Her new chamber opera, “The Transformation of Jane Doe,” will feature members of the COT Young Artist Program and be performed next April at Northwestern University’s Ryan Opera Theater.