Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer and University Professor Paul Moravec, DMA

Prestigious grant supports new production of University Professor Paul Moravec's Underground Railroad opera.

Contemporary operas can have sadly short performance histories. But a competitive grant from OPERA America will help Virginia Opera take Dr. Moravec’s Sanctuary Road on the road.

For composers in the rarefied world of contemporary classical and opera, having their work performed can be a challenge, and seeing a piece live on after the premiere is all too uncommon. But through diligent effort or the emotional impetus of his work—and likely both—Pulitzer Prize winner and University Professor Paul Moravec, DMA, is seeing his recent work continue to thrive, strengthening Adelphi’s ties to the classical music community and the wider arts world.

A March 2023 production of Dr. Moravec’s opera The Shining, based on Stephen King’s famed horror novel, by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City was recorded and is scheduled for commercial release in early 2024. A number of new stagings are also in the works, the first being in Atlanta, Georgia, this September. And his Sanctuary Road, based on William Still’s memoir recounting his experiences working to relocate enslaved people via the Underground Railroad, has received a prestigious OPERA America grant to support a new staging by Virginia Opera. The work, which exists in both opera and oratorio versions, has been presented on seven stages in the United States since its premiere and will be staged at Queens College, CUNY, in December. Virginia Opera will give six performances in three cities in early 2024, and four subsequent productions are already in the works.

“There are certain projects that seem to resonate with audiences,” Dr. Moravec said. “The Shining has overcome the one-performance curse of contemporary music.”

Financing like that provided by OPERA America’s Next Stage grants is a rarity in Dr. Moravec’s world. The fund was created in the 1990s to help finance productions of existing North American works after their premieres. The grants provide opera companies with support for editing and revising works to fit the demands of a new company. Dr. Moravec will be working directly with Virginia Opera for the new staging.

Sanctuary Road received its premiere at Carnegie Hall in May 2018 and a recording of the performance was released on CD and streaming platforms via Naxos Records. An epic dramatic work about a crucial period in the history of slavery in the United States, it is the second in Dr. Moravec’s series of American historical oratorios. Virginia Opera was one of only six applicants across the nation to be awarded the grant this year.

“I’m thrilled to get it,” Dr. Moravec said. “It indicates ongoing support for Sanctuary Road.”

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