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2011 Press Releases

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May 24, 2011

Sam Lowry, Communications Officer

Phone:  941-328-1322, Office

347-268-2513, Cell





$28,000 grant will support commission of new opera Little Nemo in Slumberland


May 24, 2011—Sarasota, FL—Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, today announced that Sarasota Opera has been recommended for a grant of $28,000 to support workshop activities for the commissioned Youth Opera Little Nemo in Slumberland by composer Daron Aric Hagen and librettist J.D. McClatchy.  This marks the second grant received from the NEA for this project, the first being a grant in the amount of $15,000 towards the commissioning of the piece.  Sarasota Opera is one of 1,145 not-for-profit national, regional, state, and local organizations recommended for a grant as part of the federal agency’s second round of fiscal year 2011 grants. In total, the Arts Endowment will distribute more than $88 million to support projects nationwide.

An independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts advances artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said, “NEA research shows that three out of four Americans participate in the arts. The diverse, innovative, and exceptional projects funded in this round will ensure that Americans around the country continue to have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”

“To be frank, this a big deal”, says Executive Director Susan Danis.  “With the economic and political challenges being faced by the National Endowment for the Arts today, we feel incredibly fortunate and humbled by their endorsement of this project through the award of this grant.  We are just beyond thrilled to see this project begin to take form and to be able to offer this incredibly unique opportunity to the dedicated young singers of the Sarasota Youth Opera and the students at the University of Kentucky.” 

One of Sarasota Opera’s goals for its Youth Opera Program is to periodically commission a fully realized opera for young people.  Sarasota Opera commissioned a two-act, ninety minute youth opera by composer Daron Aric Hagen and Librettist J.D. McClatchy specifically for the young voices (ages 8 – 18) of its youth Opera Chorus.  Recognizing the weak support given to “youth operas” of limited scope, the company and the artists agreed to create a work with wider application that would be appropriate, for example, for university undergraduate programs and youth choral groups at other U.S. and Canadian opera companies thus expanding performance opportunities for thousands of young singers. 

The new opera draws source material from serial art pioneer Winsor McCay’s comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland.  The strip is set in the dreams of its title character and features fantasy art that attempts to capture the look and feel of a creative unconscious.  Based off the recommendation of the composer, Dr. Everett McCorvey, Director of Opera at the University of Kentucky, has agreed to partner with Sarasota Opera in the creation of this project.  With the incorporation of leading edge, innovative theater technologies now being piloted at the University of Kentucky, the creative challenge presented by bringing such a fantasy based story to life will be met. 

“This is an ideal partnership as it brings together the best of what our two organizations have to offer in order to see this project through to completion”, says Dr. McCorvey.  “It is truly a rare and valuable gift to be able to offer an opera to young people that is specifically designed for developing voices.  In addition, to have the capability to be able to partner that with a high quality production to compliment the singers performances is something not readily seen at the University or Youth Opera level.”

Technical and design meetings will commence this summer both at the University of Kentucky and Sarasota Opera.  The music itself will be “work shopped” by University of Kentucky students in the winter of 2012 then finally brought to Sarasota to begin rehearsals with the Youth Opera program.  November 2012 will mark the World Premiere performance on the Sarasota Opera stage.