Washington National Opera Announces ‘American Opera Initiative : Three 20-Minute Operas’

By David Salazar

The Washington National Opera has announced the 10th anniversary of its “American Opera Initiative: Three 20-Minute Operas.”

The three works that will be presented on Jan. 21, 2023, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater include B.E. Boykin and Jarrod Lee’s “Oshun,” Jens Isben and Cecelia Raker’s “Bubbie and the Demon,” and Silen Wellington and Walken Schweigert’s “What the Spirits Show.”

“It has been my privilege to shepherd numerous operas through the creative process during my three seasons with AOI. The program provides an important platform for a new generation of artists to gain experience in opera, and to hear their work performed by world-class artists drawn from the Cafritz Young Artists Program and the Washington National Opera Orchestra,” said Kelley Rourke, who served as a major mentor for the artists, in an official press release. “Many of the collaborators who were put together by AOI in past seasons have continued making work together, and it’s been thrilling to see them take on ever-larger assignments at opera houses across the country.”

“Oshun” is described as “… a journey of sacrifice, self-love, and redemption displayed in the face of those who would deny it. From Oshun’s story, we learn that with help from those who love us well, we can believe and manifest our inner strength even in our darkest hour.”

“Bubbie and the Demon” tells the story of Bubbie, who has used the isolation from COVID to solve word searches and crosswords. However, her latest puzzle is a curse conjured by a demon. The opera weaves together themes of viral internet myth, chosen family, and true evil using classical music and heavy metal.

Finally, “What the Spirits Show” focuses on Calamus, a teenage artist who uses their own body as a canvas. With the help of an elixir, Calamus can shapeshift, allowing a greater range of expression. Unfortunately, this ends when a politician criminalizes the use of the elixir, forcing Calamus to defend their rights.