ART WORKS Guidelines: Opera

Opera is a multifaceted art form that comprises music and text to move a story or dramatic concept forward. The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to advancing the highest levels of operatic artistry across the nation's cultural landscape.

The Arts Endowment supports opera projects from organizations of all types and sizes including opera companies, development laboratories, presenting organizations, and other organizations that professionally commission, develop, or produce fully-staged operatic works, concert operatic  works, or opera festivals.

Eligible projects of all sizes may include the commission, development, premiere, presentation, and professional recordings of existing works from the operatic canon or works that are new additions to the opera genre.

In addition to projects that focus on the standard opera repertoire, the Arts Endowment encourages the commission, development, and performance of new American operas, as well as the creation of opportunities for American artists. Professional artist development programs as well as artist residencies are eligible projects. Support for service organizations in opera also represent eligible projects.


Art Works applications will be accepted under two deadlines: February 19, 2015, and July 23, 2015. Apply under the deadline with the NEA objective (in bold below) and project example that most closely corresponds to the primary focus of your proposed project. You will be asked to indicate the objective that is most relevant to your project in your application and on the application form.

February 19, 2015, Application Deadline
January 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Commissions, residencies, and workshops with artists; development and performances of new operatic works. This may include composer, librettist, and/or artist fees.
  • Development of innovative new works that cross genres.
  • Creation, commissioning, and presentation of new work in a national park or in an adjacent community.


  • World, national, regional, and local premieres.
  • New productions of traditional and contemporary opera works.
  • Remounting of existing productions.
  • Concert opera: performances of the operatic repertoire that are not fully staged. (Music organizations (non-opera organizations) that are proposing concert opera projects should apply under the Music discipline.) If you are considering a concert opera project, contact Opera or Music staff before preparing an application.
  • Festivals and other events in a national park or adjacent community (this may include performances, lecture-demonstrations, and workshops).
  • Arts/science/technology collaborations.

July 23, 2015, Application Deadline
June 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Opera festivals: commissions, residencies, and workshops with artists; development and performances of new operatic works; and development of innovative new works that cross genres. This may include composer, librettist, and/or artist fees.


  • Opera festivals: world, national, regional, and local premieres; new productions of traditional and contemporary works; and remounting of existing productions.
  • Festivals and other events in a national park or adjacent community (this may include performances, lecture-demonstrations, and workshops). 
  • Arts/science/technology collaborations.
  • Simulcast performances in public venues.
  • Touring and outreach activities that provide access to and experience with the art form for diverse communities and new audiences.
  • Artist residency activities where the primary purpose is public engagement with art.
  • Recordings of opera works by both American and international composers.
  • Technology projects such as online resources and libraries which provide public access to operatic works.
  • Documentation, preservation, conservation, and archival opera projects .
  • Services to the opera field, including services to opera organizations, singers, composers, librettists, administers, and volunteers. These may include activities such as conferences, convenings, workshops, professional development, data collection, information sharing, networks, technical assistance, online resources, and publications.


  • Education and related activities including arts/science/technology collaborations for youth, adults, intergenerational groups, and schools. (If your project is for youth, see "Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects" to help you in your discipline selection.)
  • Education programs connecting youth with the national park system through opera.
  • Professional development programs that include theatrical training for artists who have finished their conservatory training and are emerging on the professional stage. This may include coaching, conducting, acting, stage movement, diction, language, mentorship, and career development.


  • Operatic performances and other activities in public spaces that are intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.

(Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact staff if they are considering Livability as an objective.)

Project Reporting and Evaluation

We ask all applicants to define what they would like to achieve, how they will evaluate the degree to which it is achieved, and, upon completion of the project, what they have learned from their experiences. Such feedback need not entail large-scale or expensive evaluation efforts. You should do what is feasible and appropriate for your organization and project. When a grant is completed, you must submit a final report and answer questions on your achievements and how these were determined. Arts Education grantees who apply for a Direct Learning Grant will be required to describe the assessment methods used to assess learning, and they may submit tools used to assess learning with their Final Report. (Please note that assessment tools may be shared publicly. If your tools are proprietary and have copyrights or trademarks attached, you will be asked to note that in your application and Final Report.) Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for the objective that will be selected for the proposed project: Creation, Engagement, Learning, or Livability.

Beyond the reporting requirements for all grantees, selected Art Works grantees will be asked to assist in the collection of additional information that can help the NEA determine the degree to which agency objectives were achieved. You may be required to provide evidence of project accomplishments including, but not limited to, work samples, community action plans, cultural asset studies, programs, reviews, relevant news clippings, and playbills. Please remember that you are required to maintain project documentation for three years following submission of your final reports.

Application Review

This category uses the agency's traditional method of application review. Applications are submitted to the Opera staff and are reviewed by a diverse group of experts in the opera field.

Applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For more detailed information on how artistic excellence and artistic merit will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria." You can find additional information in the "Application Review" section of the "Frequently Asked Questions." See the "Application Calendar" for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections.


Opera Specialist: Georgianna Paul, paulg@arts.govor 202/682-5600