Finding the Next Great Opera Composer

Center City Opera Theater will premiere 30 vocal compositions in an evening called Art Songs for the 21st Century, a concert in which 15 composers compete to work on one of CCOT’s next Creative Development Projects. The concert takes place on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia (1906 S. Rittenhouse Square).

Art Songs for the 21st Century, a competitive showcase reminiscent of “American Idol”, is the first competition in the country of its kind. The audience will vote on their favorite composer based on a pair of contrasting art songs performed by CCOT’s Young Artists. Center City Opera Theater will then invite at least two composers, including one audience favorite, to participate in CCOT’s Creative Development Projects (CDP), a program that develops new opera works from initial conception all the way to world premiere.

General & Artistic Director Andrew Kurtz says this competition is designed to “identify composers with a natural ability to set text to voice in a dramatic fashion.” Art songs are essentially stand-alone vocal compositions that are settings of lyric poetry and not part of a staged work (such as an opera). CCOT believes this genre, intended for performance as part of a recital, will showcase the talents of the composer participants and demonstrate their potential to write an operatic composition on a grander scale.

Selected composers are: Victoria Bond, Eliza Brown, Rich Campbell, Andrea Clearfield, Michael Djupstrom, Daniel Gilliam, Chappell Kingsland, Damon Thomas Lee, Ray Leslee, Norman Matthews, Ruben Naeff, Daniel Schlosberg, Daniel Temkin, Dale Trumbore, and Thomas Irving Whitman.

Center City Opera Theater is the only opera company in the country whose primary mission is the development of new opera works from initial conception all the way to world premiere. Art Songs for the 21st Century is designed as part of its CCOT’s Creative Development Program, a series of operas-in-development that undergo a series of workshops until their world premiere. Current CDPs include Love/Hate, The Golem, Maren of Vardo, The Great Blondin, and Slaying the Dragon. Slaying the Dragon, with music by Michael Ching, libretto by Ellen Frankel, and based on the book “Not by the Sword” by Kathryn Watterson, is set for its world premiere this June at the Prince Music Theater.

Art Songs for the 21st Century performance will begin at 8pm on Saturday, March 10 at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. All compositions will be performed by members of Center City Opera Theater’s Young Artist Program with piano accompaniment. Tickets start at $20 and are available online at

For more info on the competition: CLICK HERE

For bios and headshots of the composers: CLICK HERE

For more info on Creative Development Projects: CLICK HERE

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