Frequently Asked Questions About the CLDP

How does ALT define an emerging composer or librettist?

ALT defines an emerging opera composer or librettist as an artist who has acquired significant skills as a composer and/or playwright/librettist through academic study, practice and professional experience; who demonstrates a unique and important musical and/or theatrical perspective that could benefit from intensive mentorship as part of the CLDP; and who has not yet had a main stage work commissioned and/or performed by a professional opera company. Artists’ work in other genres often has been performed professionally, as ALT’s definition of emerging applies specifically to an artist’s development and career stage as a writer of opera. ALT embraces the work of gifted operatic writers from diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds. There are no age minimums or maximums for participation. Three composers and three librettists will be accepted into the program for the 2017-18 season.


What qualifies someone as a potential Dramaturg Apprentice?

Candidates for the Dramaturg Apprenticeship are being sought from individuals who have a demonstrated interest in the development of contemporary opera. We anticipate that the background of applicants for this Apprenticeship will be varied. We are seeking a highly motivated, creative thinker who is interested in deepening his/her knowledge of opera from both a historical and practical perspective, while participating in a hands-on manner in the development and creation of new works. Candidates may include those with a stage directing background, graduates of theatrical dramaturgy programs, or others with diverse practical experience in the opera field.  The successful candidate will demonstrate a broad-based interest and knowledge of opera; sharp critical faculties; exceptional analytical skills and the ability to articulate their opinions in a clear and compelling manner; compassion and understanding of the sensitive nature of the creative process; and the ability to identify both with his/her fellow artists and the audience. One Dramaturg Apprentice will be accepted into the program for the 2017-18 season.


Can I apply to the CLDP with a writing partner?

Artists may apply in pairs, but with the understanding that during the course of the CLDP, they will be asked to collaborate with other artists as building collaborative skills is a critical component of the program. If you do apply as part of a writing team, you will be asked if you are interested in participating in the CLDP in the event that your writing partner is not accepted into the program, or if you are only interested in participating if both of you are accepted.


What is the cost of the program?

The CLDP is completely tuition free for artists accepted into the program.


How long is the program?

Artists who are accepted into the CLDP are accepted for one season. These artists will participate in the core-curriculum from September 2017 through early May 2018. All artists accepted into the program this season will be required to live in the metro-New York City area, or be willing and able to commute to New York City for all CLDP activities during this time.  Following first-year participation in the program, select artists are invited back to continue as Resident Artists at ALT for at least two more years, during which they are commissioned to write new operas while continuing to receive intensive personalized mentorship as their works are developed. Acceptance into the CLDP for the 2017-18 season does not guarantee subsequent participation, or that an artist will receive a future commission from ALT.


I heard that you could take part in the CLDP even if you don’t live in New York City – has that changed?

During the 2013-14 season, through a combination of HD videoconferencing and periods of residency in New York City, we invited artists from around the country to participate in the CLDP for the first time. Our expansion of the CLDP provided us with the opportunity to open the program to artists who do not live in the New York City area; however, we feel that the way in which we provide mentorship and foster collaboration between artists is stronger when artists are all in New York City together for the entire first year core-curriculum.   For this reason, we have modified the program to require that all artists participating in the first year of the program either live in the New York City area, or commute to NYC for classes. While participation in the CLDP during the first year of the new cycle will require residency or the ability to commute to New York, participation in subsequent years will not require full-time residency. 


If I move to NYC to participate in the CLDP, is housing available? Is there any sort of financial assistance?

We are unable to provide housing for artists during their first-year participation in the program. However, for the first time this season, to help make it possible for artists to devote themselves to their activities in the CLDP, ALT is introducing a stipend for all participating artists.

ALT will provide a a stipend of $1,250 per month for 8 months between September 2017 and April 2018 (a total of $10,000 per artist). The goal of providing this stipend is to supplement artists’ income and to help offset living expenses, while taking into account the intensity and work-load of the program. Composers and librettists who are invited to return to the CLDP after the first year in the program to write a full-length opera are paid commission fees, in lieu of the stipend, payable in increments tied to specific deliverables throughout the developmental process. The Dramaturg Apprentice will receive additional honoraria in subsequent years of their apprenticeship, tied to their participation in the workshops of new operas in development at ALT.


What is the “core-curriculum”?

At the center of the first year of the CLDP is ALT’s core-curriculum, which consists of classroom training and hands-on workshops with some of the country’s leading working artists. For the 2017-18 season, principal faculty mentors will include composer/librettist Mark Adamo, librettist Mark Campbell, stage director Lawrence Edelson, dramaturg Cori Ellison, and composer Jake Heggie. Several internationally recognized composers and librettists are invited each season to be guest artists within the classes and workshops of the core-curriculum. Recent and upcoming guests include composers Kaija Saariaho, Nico Muhly, Christopher Theofanidis, Stewart Wallace, Paul Moravec, Ricky Ian Gordon and David T. Little; and librettists Michael Korie, Donna DiNovelli, Stephen Karam, Gene Scheer, and Royce Vavrek (one of ALT’s most prolific and successful alumni).  

The core curriculum of the CLDP is customized in response to the individual needs of the artists accepted into the program, but centers around the following workshops and classes:

  1. Workshop – Writing for the Classically Trained Voice: An intensive residency workshop exploring the major voice categories and types of voices within those categories. (In 2017-18, this workshop will be led by composer Jake Heggie.)
  2. Workshop – Libretto and Lyric Writing: An intensive residency workshop exploring forms and styles in lyric writing, and the difference in approach to writing for opera versus other musical theater forms. (In 2017-18, this workshop will be led by librettist Mark Campbell.)
  3. Workshop – Building Blocks: A 4-month workshop-class exploring 4 major building blocks in operatic form: recitative, aria, ensemble, and chorus. (In 2017-18, this workshop will be led by composer/librettist Mark Adamo, with additional guest artists.) 
  4. Seminar – Operatic Dramaturgy / The Balance Between Text and Music: An ongoing year-long class exploring the relationship between text and music from Monteverdi to present day. (In 2017-18, this seminar will be led by dramaturg Cori Ellison.) 
  5. Workshop – The Gestus / Guided One Act Collaboration:  An extensive 4-month workshop in which composer/librettist teams are provided with a thematic scaffold upon which they develop one-act operas. Using the same outline and structure, each team develops a short one-act work. (In 2017-18, this workshop will be led by composer/librettist Mark Adamo.)
  6. 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.  (In 2017-18, this workshop will be led by Lawrence Edelson, with additional guest artists.)
  7. Contemporary Masterworks Study: Composers and Librettists will have the opportunity to study 21st century masterworks with the artists who created them, gaining insight into the form, structure, and collaborative process behind successful works. (In 2017-18, this Seminar will be led by Cori Ellison, and will feature prominent working composers and librettists as guest lecturers.)

In addition to ongoing classes and workshops, artists in the program take part in observerships at The Metropolitan Opera. Through this partnership, we are able to provide artists the opportunity to explore the process of mounting fully staged operatic productions. The majority of the classes and workshop sessions for the CLDP take place at the National Opera Center, where ALT has been in residence since the fall of 2012. 


How will the new Dramaturg Apprentice participate in the CLDP?

While composers and librettists are accepted into the CLPD for one year, the Dramaturg Apprentice will participate in CLDP activities for a three year period. During the 2017-18 season, the Dramaturg Apprentice will participate in the core-curriculum as outlined above, and will also receive private mentorship from internationally renowned dramaturg Cori Ellison, producing artistic director Lawrence Edelson, and other members of ALT's faculty. In the following two seasons, the Dramaturg Apprentice will participate in workshops of new operas being developed at ALT. We will also be working with other opera companies around the country to facilitate short-term project placements, to help the Dramaturg Apprentice expand their professional network and gain additional real-world experience. During the 2017-18 season, the Dramaturg Apprentice will receive the same living stipend as composers and librettists in the program, as outlined above. In subsequent seasons, the Dramaturg Apprentice will receive honoraria connected to workshops of specific operas at ALT.


What is the schedule like?

The first year of the CLDP is a master’s level program that consists over 240 hours of classes and hands-on workshops with ALT’s mentorship faculty between September 2017 and early-May 2018. There are 75 classes and workshops scheduled. In addition, artists have multiple writing assignment and attend rehearsals as are necessary to support their projects in the program.  The program requires a considerable commitment outside of class time for collaboration with writing partners and the completion of assignments.

Classes are scheduled on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. There are no more than two classes scheduled each week, and classes are spaced to provide time for writing assignments. In addition, there are week-long intensives scheduled at the beginning and end of the program (during the first two weeks of September, and the end of April and beginning of May); as well as a few weekend workshops during the course of the season.  A detailed schedule with a complete calendar of all classes and workshops will be made available to all artists accepted into the program at time of acceptance.

Artists are required to commit to the entire scope of the program to participate.  We understand that artists may need to request professional or personal releases during the CLDP,  but full disclosure of known conflicts in advance is required, and all absences are subject to the approval of the program director. Please do not apply to the CLDP if you have significant conflicts that would prevent your full participation


Can I work on an opera that I am already developing in the CLDP?

No. The first-year of the CLDP is a mentorship and training program focused on process, developing skills, and fostering collaboration. ALT does not develop works that are already in process through the CLDP. There other opportunities for this sort of developmental work available at other organizations. We recommend membership in OPERA America for all artists to stay informed about such opportunities.


I have an idea for an opera – is the CLDP right for me?

It depends what you are looking for. The CLDP is not the place to pitch your idea for an opera, so if you are looking to spend the year working on a specific idea that you already have, this is not the program for you.  The first year of participation in the CLDP is not about writing a full-length work.

If you are serious about developing your skills and meeting new collaborators, the CLDP could be for you. The CLDP is an intensive professional development program with a highly credentialed faculty and proven track record for developing the skills of gifted artists, incubating successful operas, and fostering lasting collaborations.

Alumni of the CLDP are now creating operas both at ALT and at companies around the country, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Opera Saratoga, Tulsa Opera, Fargo Moorhead Opera, The PROTOTYPE Festival, and many more.  Some artists who have participated in the CLDP had ideas for operas in mind when they entered the program. Other artists were looking to identify potential collaborators for future projects. The CLDP will provide you with a supportive environment to develop your skills, regardless of where you write operas, or with whom, in the future.