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 CLDP includes 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.

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

Originally available to artists in New York City, the CLDP was expanded to be a national initiative in 2013.  Composers and librettists from across the United States are able to participate in the CLDP through a combination of part-time NYC residencies, and regular remote participation in classes and workshops through the use of  HD video conferencing technology. The acquisition of this new, high speed, high-resolution technology enables ALT to invite artists from all over the country to participate in the CLDP and to collaborate with other artists, without geographic restriction.

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. To date, the program has provided intensive, personalized mentorship to 38 gifted emerging artists. ALT has contributed 15 new 30-minute operas, 2 one-act chamber operas, and 2 full-length operas to the repertoire, which have been performed by organizations including Fort Worth Opera, Opera Saratoga, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Tulsa Opera, The San Francisco Conservatory and Bard College. Currently, there are four new full-length operas in development by ALT Resident Artists under the auspices of the CLDP. Beyond works developed at ALT, distinguished alumni of the CLDP are now creating works for companies around the country, including Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera.



The first year of the Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP) is a comprehensive ten-month core curriculum consisting of over 200 hours of intensive mentorship in over 60 workshops and classes, providing artists with opportunities to hone their musical-dramatic writing skills under the tutelage of some of the country’s most accomplished operatic writers. 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. Below is a brief outline of the classes, workshops and residencies in which all artists participate:

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.  (Led by Faculty including Lucy Arner, Catherine Malfitano, and Lawrence Edelson)

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 Faculty including Mark Campbell, Paul Moravec, and Mark Adamo)

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 Lawrence Edelson and Rhoda Levine)

6.) Composer Residency Workshop – Dramatizing History / Opera and the Vernacular: A special residency with Michael Korie and Stewart Wallace to explore dramatizing history on the opera stage; and the use of the vernacular in opera. Includes practical writing assignments and an analysis project. (Led by guest faculty, including Anthony Davis, Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie)

Additionally, several internationally recognized composers and librettists are invited each season to be guest lecturers within the classes of the core-curriculum.


Throughout the first year of the CLDP, faculty mentors seek to identify composer/librettist partnerships that demonstrate an effective collaborative relationship while creating unique and compelling work. By the end of the first year in the program, every artist has written at least six short pieces (arias, ensembles, short scenes, etc.) with different collaborators, as well as a complete one-act opera with a single collaborator. Faculty mentors consult with Lawrence Edelson, the Producing Artistic Director, who makes the final selection of artists who will be invited to return to the CLDP to work on a full-length opera.

While working on an original commission in the CLDP, writing teams focus on further developing skills explored in the first year of the program and develop an original work through ALT’s unique development process. The developmental process at ALT follows a structured path, but is designed to remain responsive to individual artists needs. Over the course of a three to five year period, ALT develops operas through progressive stages of development:

1.) Creation of a Structural Outline

2.) Libretto Workshop & Public Reading through The Living Libretto series

3.) Piano Vocal Workshop & Public Concert through InsightALT series

4.) Orchestral Workshop & Public Concert through InsightALT series

5.) Fully Staged Premiere with Professional Company Producing Partner

Throughout each developmental stages, personalized mentorship is provided to each team by CLDP Faculty mentors. Principal mentorship activities for returning artists include:

1.) Structural Outlines: One of the most important skills taught through the CLDP is how to create libretto and score outlines prior to beginning to write the actual libretto and score. Under the mentorship of Mark Adamo, writing teams develop these dual outlines for their new operas.

2.) Libretto and Lyric Writing:  Expanding upon the work done in the first year of the program, librettist Mark Campbell teaches a course focusing on lyric writing, song form, and structure in opera libretti.

3.) Private Mentorship Sessions: As outlines are completed, each composer/librettist team is paired with private mentors from ALT’s faculty to continue the development of their operas. Throughout the season, writing teams meet with their mentors monthly to present their work in progress and receive constructive criticism as their operas develop. Writing teams may elect to work with one specific mentor throughout the season, or to work with complementary mentors.

4.) Monthly Group Sessions: Producing Artistic Director Lawrence Edelson holds monthly meetings during which all writing teams join together to present work in progress for their peers. One of the strengths of the multi-year model is the ability for writing teams to act as a supportive peer group throughout all stages of each opera’s development. Guest performers are brought in as needed to provide resources for the teams to see and hear their work in progress.

5.) Repertoire Dramaturgy / Metropolitan Opera Observerships: In partnership with The Metropolitan Opera, Resident Artists are given the opportunity to observe rehearsals for productions during the Met season. Dramaturg Cori Ellison leads classes prior to the operas to discuss the unique dramaturgical and musical approaches of each composer and librettist.

6.) Libretto Workshop and Readings: At this phase, an extensive 7 to 10 day workshop will be conducted on the libretto of a new opera, during which time artists receive feedback from their mentors and have the opportunity to make revisions to their libretti. The workshops culminate in public libretto readings through ALT’s The Living Libretto series, during which the libretti are performed by guest actors from Broadway and off-Broadway (read, not sung). At the public readings, Lawrence Edelson leads a structured feedback session with the audience – which includes fellow Resident Artists – utilizing Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Method to provide a constructive and supportive framework for audience feedback.

7.) Piano Vocal Workshops and Readings: Piano vocal scores receive a 10 to 14 day developmental workshop and concert reading, under the direction of a professional conductor, with guest singers from leading opera houses across the country and members of MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) who serve as the ensemble for each opera when a chorus is necessary. In addition to using the workshops to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the works-in-progress, we also take this opportunity to look at how composers can optimize their piano vocal scores. As one of the most important documents created while developing a new opera, composers have the opportunity to work with a professional rehearsal pianist to explore ways to improve notation of their scores. Workshops culminate in public concerts, presented through ALT’s InsightALT series, with Critical Response Sessions, both of which are professionally recorded for developmental and promotional purposes.

6.) Orchestral Workshops and Readings: Orchestral scores receive a 10 to 14 day developmental workshop and concert reading, with an ensemble of accomplished new music musicians, led by a professional conductor. Guest singers from leading opera houses across the country are cast as principals, and members of MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) serve as the ensemble for each opera when a chorus is required. During these workshops, we evaluate the dramatic impact of the orchestra beyond mere accompaniment; the balance between singers and instruments, as well as text and music; and allow the composer to experiment with different instrumental techniques, as requested. Similar to piano vocal workshops, orchestral workshops culminate in a public concert reading, presented through ALT’s InsightALT series, which includes a Critical Response Session with the public audience. Opera company representatives from around the country are invited to both piano vocal and orchestral workshops and readings, as at these stages, we feel the works are ready to be seen by potential producing partners.


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 Composer Librettist Development Program is a multi year initiative. The next round of applications will be accepted for incoming artists in January 2017 for the 2017-18 season.

NOTE: The program requires a considerable number of writing assignments. 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.


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.