National Endowment for the Arts Support of Opera
The creation of the NEA Opera Honors in 2008 constituted a milestone in the agency's long history of support for opera. Beginning in 1967, only the second year of its grant making activities, the NEA awarded a $150,000 grant to the Metropolitan Opera National Company, a satellite of the Metropolitan Opera. Since then, the NEA has awarded nearly 4,500 grants to opera companies, artists and organizations, totaling more than $167 million. Activities supported with NEA funds include young artists’ programs, broadcasts of television and radio programs including Great Performances and NPR’s World of Opera, and leadership initiatives such as the NEA’s Great American Voices featuring opera performances at military bases nationwide. The catalytic effect of this support is reflected in the growth of opera companies, from 46 companies in 1965 to more than 200 companies in 2009.
Key to the agency's history of opera support was the New American Works program which from 1980 to 1995 awarded more than 600 grants totaling $9.5 million to assist in the creation of new work. Among the operas made possible through this program are Anthony Davis' Amistad, John Adam's Nixon in China, William Bolcom's A View from the Bridge, and Philip Glass' Appomattox. The NEA continues to fund the creation of new work through its grant categories.
The NEA also provided grants for professional development of emerging artists, funding programs such as the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (Chicago), the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and Merola Opera Program (San Francisco). Among the alumni of these programs are Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, and Denyce Graves. The NEA also has been a longstanding funder of television and radio broadcasts of opera including such lauded programs as The Metropolitan Opera Presents (formerly Live from the Met), Great Performances, and NPR's World of Opera.
The NEA both sustains and develops large scale projects with significant national reach. Through the support of the NEA, OPERA America launched The Opera Fund, which, in its first three years, awarded 50 grants and nearly $1 million to provide for the creation and production of new work. The NEA created the national initiative Great American Voices: Military Base Tour that from October 2005 to November 2006 featured 24 professional opera companies performing at 39 military bases across the country. The NEA Opera Honors created in 2008 is the latest in a long line of NEA programs designed to foster the growth of the art form in the United States.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
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