OPERA America Awards IDEA Opera Grants to Support Two New Works by Composers & Librettists of Color

By Chris Ruel

OPERA America awarded the second cycle of IDEA Opera Grants (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) to composer/librettist Damon Davis; and composer Liliya Ugay and librettist Sokunthary Svay.

The winning teams receive a total prize of $25,000 along with high-quality video recordings of workshops, working performances for promotional use, a feature on OPERA America’s digital and social platforms, and in Opera America Magazine. OPERA America will also introduce teams’ work to field leaders at the organization’s New Works Forum and annual Opera Conference.

Davis received the grant for “Ligeia Mare (No Space, No Time),” a sci-fi electronic fantasy opera that follows an adolescent named Ray who astral projects while dreaming and believes the power to heal his jazz pianist father from brain cancer resides in the stars.

Composer Liliya Ugay and librettist Sokunthary Svay received their grant for “Chhlong Tonle (Crossing the River),” a three-part melodrama for soprano and piano. Ugay and Svay’s work takes its inspiration from the Cambodian expression for one’s first childbirth. The three stories explore women’s issues ranging from virginity, postpartum depression, and childbirth.

OPERA America’s IDEA Grants are supported by the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, a family foundation committed to promoting equal rights and social justice through education, music, and the law. The grants support composers and librettists who identify as African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and/or Native American in the development of new operatic works and the advancement of their careers in the industry.

In a press statement issued by OPERA America, Cerise Jacobs, president of the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, said, “Diversifying the voices, the stories, and the faces in opera requires thoughtful activism. The IDEA Opera Grants provide targeted support to elevate BIPOC artists. My heart is full to overflowing from reviewing the work of the many BIPOC artists who applied, and I thank them all for being part of this flowering of a new kind of opera.”