New Works Initiative

Minnesota Opera’s world premiere production of Silent Night was commissioned and developed through the Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative (NWI). The HD video recording of Silent Night (recorded on November 17, 2011) was also funded through the NWI, a seven-year, $7 million program designed to invigorate the opera repertoire with an infusion of new and contemporary works. Through this Initiative, Silent Night and the other contemporary works we champion will be given life well beyond these performances in the Twin Cities. 

Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative supported the American premiere of Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio; revivals of Dominick Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming, The Dream of Valentino and Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights; and the commissions of Doubt, composed by Douglas J. Cuomo with libretto by John Patrick Shanley; and The Manchurian Candidate, composed by Kevin Puts with libretto by Mark Campbell. Two future commissions have been announced: The Shining, composed by Paul Moravec with libretto by Mark Campbell (Silent Night and The Manchurian Candidate) and based on the novel by Stephen King, will have its world premiere in May 2016; and Dinner at Eight, composed by William Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell, based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, will have its world premiere during its 2016–2017 season.

The future of the NWI is conceived as a 10-year program that will not only encompass major mainstage commissions like these and Cold Mountain (co-commissioned with The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia, by composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer, based on the novel by Charles Frazier, which had its world premiere summer 2015 at The Santa Fe Opera), but endeavors to further invigorate the art form and expand its audience by creating new works conceived for non-traditional opera venues. To that end, a new hallmark of this new program will be the creation of local and national partnerships to develop new ways of creating, workshopping and presenting opera. Programmatic plans will be released on an ongoing basis.

Minnesota Opera came into being in 1963 with a world premiere of Dominick Argento’s opera Masque of Angels, produced (by the then-Center Opera) on the brand new stage of the Guthrie Theater.  For decades, Minnesota Opera’s commitment to new and contemporary opera made it a rarity in the world of American opera.  A landmark National Endowment for the Arts study in 1985 revealed that Minnesota Opera was the only company that year to produce a new work.

Fortunately, the landscape has changed. Now, new American opera has never been more popular.  Minnesota Opera is grateful to its audience for nearly a half-century of support of new and contemporary opera.  The New Works Initiative has been guided and supported by the committee listed on this page.  They have helped the company deepen its role as a leader in the production of new work. 


Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative Committee

Margaret Wurtele, Chair
Karen Bachman
Wendy Bennett
Burt Cohen
Jane Confer
Judy Dayton
John Huss
Ruth Huss
Lucy Jones
Robert Marx
Jenny Nilsson
Elizabeth Redleaf
Mary Vaughan
Bernt von Ohlen