Mission | Premieres | Repertory | Staff

Founded in 1982, The Center for Contemporary Opera is a leading proponent of new opera in the United States. Based in New York City, the company focuses on producing and developing new opera and music theater works and reviving rarely seen American operas written after the second World War. The Center for Contemporary Opera has staged the premieres of over seventy works and released four commercial recordings. In addition to its productions, an important part of its work is the  development of new operas. Works are presented at all stages from libretto readings, ateliers, concert versions, to full productions. In line with its mission to promote an interest in new operatic and music-theater culture among the American public, the company presents colloquia and publishes a bi-annual newsletter Opera Today and the magazine New Music Connoisseur which is one of the very few periodicals in the world devoted to contemporary classical music. The Center for Contemporary Opera has recently expanded its reach and toured in Austria, Hungary, France, and Latvia.

“No company, large or small has a better track record of service to American opera”-The New York Times

“invaluable”- The New Yorker

“an easy enterprise to applaud”-The Financial Times


“Alice” on the Surreal Side, with all the Bells and Whistles
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, June 2006

In a dramatically fantastical and musically modernistic adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic, “Alice in Wonderland” is a work in progress…The cast provided an instrumental backdrop by playing an inventive array of bird whistles, drums, tambourines, chimes and various contraptions to produce sound effects…Moreover, during each scene whatever singers were not portraying characters became part of a background chorus, singing eerie music of long sustained and pungently atonal harmonies, mostly in high-lying registers…the impressive cast threw itself into this work…enacting scenes and even providing effects like creating images of rushing water.

Opera Review by Jeremy Eichler, The New York Times, May 2, 2005

“[Francis] Thorne and his librettist, J.D. McClatchy, have deftly transferred the dark and, yes, mesmerizing essence of this story to the operatic stage without losing its subtlety and innuendo. Their work is true to most of the original details, and the few liberties taken (Italian Black Shirts have been added to the crowd) do not get in the way. Mr. Thorne’s score is full of pungent harmony, fidgety rhythms and teeming counterpoint that course beneath the purposefully naïve lyricism of the townspeople…the music provides an effective sense of restless motion, like unconscious forces swirling beneath a calm facade.

The staging by Jason Jacobs allowed the audience in the hall on Saturday night to feel as if we, too, were among Cipolla’s ensnared spectators…Richard Cassell was a vocally robust Cipolla with ample charisma and self-possession. Justin Vickers had a sweet and mellow tenor as Mario, and Larry Small sang Herr Dorn with a rich baritone. Richard Marshall conducted the orchestra [of] this dense and demanding score.

Mario and the Magician – Francis Thorne/J.D. McClatchy (2005)

A More Perfect Union -Victoria Bond/Isaiah Sheffer/Priscilla Kierstein (World Premiere, 2004)

Cheri – Michael Dellaira/Susan Yankowitz (Reading, 2002)

Insect Comedy – Martin Kalmanoff and Lewis Allen (World Premiere, 1993)

KAFKA: Letter to My Father – Stanley Walden (U. S. Premiere, 2000)

Mrs. Satan – Victoria Bond and Hilary Bell (First workshop production, 2000)

La Priere du Loup – Eric Salzman (U. S. Premiere, 2003)

Vera of Las Vegas – Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon (World Premiere, 2003)

Vera of Las Vegas – Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon (World Premiere, 2003)

Vera of Las Vegas – Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon (World Premiere, 2003)

Sorry, Wrong Number – Beeson/Fletcher (World Premiere, 1999)

Summer by Stephen Paulus and Joan Vail Thorne (New York Premiere, 1998)

The Postman Always Rings Twice by Stephen Paulus and Colin Graham
(New York Premiere, 1999)

Transformations – Susa/Sexton (New York Premiere, 1996)

The Bald Soprano by Martin Kalmanoff (First performance with orchestra)

Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights by Stanley Walden and Gertrude Stein
(U.S. Premiere 2002)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Timothy Sulliva (World Premiere 1987)

Dream Play by Timothy Sullivan (U.S. Premiere 1990)

Christopher Sly by Dominick Argento (New York Premiere 1987)


Argento Christopher Sly, New York Premiere
Barab (Dostoevski) Phillip Marshall, World Premiere
Barab (Giraudoux) Ondine, World Premiere
Beeson (Saroyan) My Heart’s in the Highlands, Stage Premiere
Beeson Practice in the Art of Elocution
Beeson (Fletcher) Sorry, Wrong Number, World Premiere 1999
Blitzstein (Malamud) Idiots First, Premiere with Orchestra
Bond, Victoria (Isaiah Sheffer) A More Perfect Union (World Premiere 2004)
Britten Noyes Fludde
Britten The Burning Fiery Furnace
Britten Curlew River
Britten The Prodigal Son
Bucci (Enright) Tale for a Deaf Ear
Cipullo Glory Denied (Staged reading)
Dellaira (Yankowitz) Chéri
Eyerly (Hawthorne) The House of the Seven Gables (Commissioned by the Center)
Floyd, Carlisle Markheim
Hagen (Muldoon) Vera of Las Vegas (World Premiere)
Johnson The Four Note Opera
Kalmanoff/ Allen (Capek) INSECT COMEDY: The World We Live In, World Premiere
Kalmanoff (Chekhov) The Harmfulness of Tobacco
Kalmanoff (Ionesco) The Bald Soprano, First Performance with Orchestra. A television production, which won a national Telly Award, is available on video from the Cinema Guild.
Kurka The Good Soldier Schweik
Lackey Wild Woody Thornton, New York Premiere (a spoof about Oliver North)
Lehrman (Malamud) Karla, First Performance with Orchestra
Lehrman Super Spy
Mayer Brief Candle (Also performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic on the Meet the Modern series)
Menotti The Medium
Menotti The Telephone
Mollicone The Face on the Barroom Floor
Paulus (Stephen)/Thorne (Joan Vail) Summer, New York Premiere
Paulus/Graham (Cain) The Postman Always Rings Twice, New York Premiere
Rorem (Stein) Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters
Rudenstein Faustus, World Premiere
Salzman/Rostain La Priere du Loupe
Salzman, Eric (Valeria Vasilevski) The True Last Words of Dutch Schultz (U.S. premiere)
Schickele The Stoned Guest (with apologies to Mozart and DaPonte)
Siegmeister (Malamud) Angel Levine
Sullivan Josephine, World Premiere
Sullivan Tomorrow and Tomorrow, World Premiere
Sullivan (Strindbergh) Dream Play, U.S. Premiere
Susa (Sexton) Transformations
Spivack Cathedral, World Premiere
Thorne/McClatchy Mario and the Magician, Professional Premiere
Walden KAFKA: Letter to My Father
Walden (Stein) Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, U.S. Premiere
Weill (Brecht) Der Jasager
Weill Mahagonny Songspiel
Westergaard, Peter Alice in Wonderland (Staged reading)
Wolosoff, Bruce Madimi (Staged reading)

Board of Directors

Eugene Rotberg, President
Janet Allison Glaser
Hadassah Markson
Paul Underwood


Jim Schaeffer, General and Artistic Director

Sara Jobin, Music Director


Jessica Thomson, Company Manager


Eric Salzman, Composer in Residence

Michael Dellaira, Advisor


Richard Marshall, Founding General Director