National Endowment for the Arts Announces Inaugural Class
New York, NY -- Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), today announced the first recipients of the NEA Opera Honors, the highest award our nation bestows in opera. The award goes to luminaries who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States. The honorees are soprano Leontyne Price; composer Carlisle Floyd; administrator Richard Gaddes, general director of the Santa Fe Opera and co-founder of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and maestro James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Also participating in the event was Plácido Domingo, renowned tenor and general director of the Washington National Opera, which partners with the NEA in this inaugural year.
The NEA Opera Honors awards ceremony will be held on Friday evening, October 31, at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, with performances by the Washington National Opera and members of its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Other cities will host the event in future years.
Speaking at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center's New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Chairman Gioia said, "The new NEA Opera Honors award recognizes that American opera has truly come of age with our singers, musicians, composers, directors, designers, and opera companies, who are second to none in the world. The time has come for the U.S. government to honor our great living artists with the high C of official praise."
Authorized by Congress in the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, NEA Opera Honors recipients are nominated by the public and chosen by an NEA-convened panel of opera experts. These are the first new NEA awards in 25 years to celebrate lifetime achievement and individual excellence. In addition to an awards ceremony in the fall, the designation includes a one-time grant award of $25,000. Opera America partners with the NEA in managing the program.
The 2008 NEA Opera Honors are being given in four categories. Carlisle Floyd, who receives the award for composer, has had a long and distinguished career and has written such memorable operas as Susannah and Of Mice and Men. In the category of advocate, Richard Gaddes has been the trailblazing director of two important festival companies in Santa Fe and Saint Louis. As conductor, James Levine has led Metropolitan Opera premieres of works by many composers, from Mozart to Weill, as well as the world premieres of American operas by John Corigliano and John Harbison, and is responsible for building the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra into one of the greatest orchestras in the world. As the 2008 honoree for singer, Leontyne Price is known for her elegant musical style, great recording legacy, and generosity to young artists.
Plácido Domingo said, "I am especially pleased that singers from Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program will perform at the first NEA Opera Honors gala, letting us pay tribute to legends of American opera through the emerging mastery of a new generation."
For photos, bios, and additional information, please go to the Opera Honors section of the NEA Web site.
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