Until ALT started the Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), there was not a single full-time training program for opera composers and librettists at any opera company in the United States. Almost every opera company in the country has a Young Artist Program to mentor emerging singers, and over the past 25 years, these programs have proved immensely successful at improving both the artistic level and the career success of American singers around the globe. Imagine what could happen if the same sort of opportunities were available for operatic writers. ALT is doing more than imagining this – we are making it happen. The CLDP has been designed to address the absence of appropriate mentorship for our writers.

Founded in 2007 and recognized for artistic excellence by both the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the CLDP is the only full-time professional mentorship initiative for operatic writers in the country. The CLDP is a tuition-free program that includes a core curriculum of classroom training and hands-on workshops with some of the country’s leading working artists. The principal faculty for the 2013-2014 CLDP will include composer/librettist Mark Adamo, librettist Mark Campbell, composer Robert Beaser, dramaturg Cori Ellison, librettist Michael Korie, stage director Rhoda Levine, and composer Paul Moravec. Recent guest teachers and lecturers have included composers Kaija Saariaho, Ricky Ian Gordon, Nico Muhly, Stewart Wallace, Christopher Theofanidis, and John Musto, and librettists Stephen Karam, Donna DiNovelli, and Gene Scheer.

To date, over 30 artists from the metropolitan New York City area have benefited from the intensive mentorship provided by American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program. In addition, 11 short chamber operas have been developed under the auspices of the CLDP, and 6 new commissions are being developed at ALT by returning Resident Artists. Our alumni’s work has been produced by a wide range of organizations, including Carnegie Hall, Fort Worth Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Center City Opera, Tulsa Opera, Bard Conservatory, and the San Francisco Conservatory.

We are thrilled to announce the national expansion of this program, and to invite applications for the 2013-2014 program from composers and librettists from across the United States, who will be able to participate in the CLDP remotely through the use of HD video conferencing technology. The acquisition of this new, high speed, high-resolution technology will now enable ALT to invite artists from all over the country to participate in the CLDP and to collaborate with other artists, without geographic restriction.

In addition to ongoing classes and workshops, composers and librettists in the program have the opportunity to take part in residency observerships at The Metropolitan Opera. Through this recently expanded partnership, ALT is able to provide artists the opportunity to explore the process of mounting fully staged operatic productions. ALT also provides opportunities for Resident Artists to meet opera company leaders from around the country so that they can showcase their work, and expand their professional network. Additional networking and membership resources are provided through ALT’s partnership with OPERA America

It is our goal that, upon completion of the program, artists will have addressed crucial voids in their training while creating a draft of a new work to be further developed for staged reading by ALT, with the possibility of subsequent professional production by ALT and/or other companies.


The core curriculum of the CLDP is customized each season in response to the individual needs of the Composers and Librettists accepted into the program. Classes, Workshops and Residencies scheduled for the 2013-14 season include:

  1. Workshop – Writing for the Classically Trained Voice: A workshop-class exploring the major voice categories, and different types of voices within those categories. Through study of existing works as well as writing exercises and collaboration with guest singers, composers and librettists explore issues including range, timbre, tessitura, lyric diction, challenges of writing for specific voice types, balance between voice and orchestra, amplification vs. acoustic considerations, and pushing the boundaries of the classically trained voice in a theatrical/operatic setting. (alternating faculty)
  2. Workshop – Building Blocks: A workshop-class exploring four of the major building blocks in operatic form: recitative, aria, ensemble, and chorus. Through study of existing works as well as writing exercises and collaboration with guest singers, composers and librettists explore the varied uses of different forms from both musical and dramaturgical perspectives and are encouraged to explore beyond the boundaries of existing convention. (led by Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell)
  3. Seminar – Operatic Dramaturgy / The Balance Between Text and Music: An ongoing class that provides extensive exploration of the relationship between text and music in a diverse variety of opera and music-theater. A portion of this course focuses on how literary works have been adapted for the lyric stage; the art of the librettist; the art of collaboration; and the role of the orchestra in operatic narrative. Special attention is also paid to the societal environment in which each work was premiered to foster a better understanding of how environmental relevance has influenced the reception of new works throughout history. (led by Cori Ellison)
  4. Workshop – The Gestus / Guided One Act Collaboration: An extensive workshop-project in which composer/librettist teams are provided with a thematic scaffold upon which they develop a one-act opera. An outline and general structure is provided that is the same for all pairs, and in their own way, each team develops a short one-act work based on the parameters given.  Through guided discussions, artist pairs are encouraged to find their own voice while being challenged to rethink assumptions and to justify decisions they have made. (led by Mark Adamo)
  5. Workshop – Directing: Composers and Librettists are guided through the process of staging opera by directing scenes from both masterworks of the repertoire, their own work, and work written by their colleagues in the program.  Through this workshop, artists gain a better understanding of how dramatic pacing in their writing manifests itself on stage; the relationship between libretto, score and on-stage action; and the role a director has in facilitating and interpreting their vision. (led by Rhoda Levine and Lawrence Edelson)
  6. Project / Work in Progress: For artists who are asked to return to the CLDP after their first season, composer/librettist pairs begin work on full-length operas mentored by ALT’s faculty. (Artists are matched to mentors based on the specifics of each individual project, including Mark Adamo, Mark Campbell, Lawrence Edelson, Cori Ellison and Michael Korie)
  7. Seminar – The Piano Vocal Score: From a conductor’s perspective, an intensive look at how composers can optimize their piano vocal scores. As one of the most important documents created while developing a new opera – and one that often is very poorly notated – composers study the PV scores. of both standard repertoire as well as contemporary operas. next to their orchestral counterparts. The goal is to provide composers with a better understanding of ways to improve notation and formatting of their scores; to prioritize what information musically is most important to include in the PV score; and to ensure that their PV scores are truly functional documents that are both playable and represent their work in the best possible light. (led by Lucy Arner)
  8. Composer Residency Workshop – Opera and the Vernacular: A special residency with Anthony Davis to explore dramatizing history on the opera stage; and the use of the vernacular in opera. Includes practical writing assignments and an analysis project.
  9. Composer Residency Workshop – The Role of the Orchestra: A special residency with Robert Beaser to explore orchestration issues specific to opera, and the varied role the orchestra can play in opera.

Supplemental workshops are scheduled based on the needs of Resident Artists as determined by the faculty during the course of the program. During appropriate points during the CLDP, ALT engages singers to work with all composers and librettists so that they will have the opportunity to hear and see their work in development. This occurs in the context of the regularly scheduled core curriculum as outlined above.

CURRICULUM NOTE: We are often asked why the CLDP curriculum for composers does not address compositional issues such as basic orchestration. The purpose of the CLDP is to develop skills necessary to write for the opera stage that are typically not addressed in traditional conservatory training. ALT accepts composers into the program who demonstrate a significant level of musical accomplishment, but who are emerging specifically as pertains to their work in opera. If during the CLDP a participating artist is identified as having a weakness in a specific basic skills area, ALT’s faculty offers recommendations to that artist as to how to best address that issue in a way that will compliment their work in the program. It is not, however, the intention of the CLDP to provide the type of training that is readily available in university and conservatory settings.

SCHEDULE:. American Lyric Theater’s 2013-2014 Composer Librettist Development Program will run from September 15, 2013 to June 18, 2014. All artists accepted into the program will be required to be in New York City for two weeks during the program (September 15-22, 2013 and June 11-18, 2014). For those artists who do not live in the metropolitan New York City area, ALT will provide transportation and housing. Artists will be able to fully participate in the remainder of the program, including all classes, workshops and rehearsals, . in person or remotely through the use of advanced HD video conferencing technology.

The program requires a considerable number of writing assignments, including a one-act opera in the spring, and all participants are expected to meet multiple project deadlines throughout the season. This is not a part-time program. While all classes and workshops are scheduled to allow artists to maintain other engagements and day-jobs as is necessary, the CLDP is a full-time commitment for artists wanting the most comprehensive mentorship in writing for the opera stage. There are over 70 workshops, classes and seminars for Resident Artists throughout the year, plus dedicated time for collaboration and writing. Artists generally meet one or two times weekly during the fall and winter, with fewer sessions in the spring to allow for more writing time on projects in development. Class and workshop sessions are generally held on Monday and Wednesday evenings.


ALT does not accept submissions of completed operas from artists seeking workshops or production. All operas developed by ALT are commissioned by ALT from Resident Artists who are members of, or alumni of, the Composer Librettist Development Program. If you are interested in receiving a commission from ALT for a full-length opera, the CLDP is the entry point for all artists. Participation in the CLDP does not guarantee a future commission, but participation is the only way to be considered for future financial support and development of a full-length opera by ALT.