Over seventy operas and music-theater works have been presented in complete productions, workshops or readings including over twenty world premieres. Please scroll down for information about the CCO Development Series.

Vera of Las Vegas by Daron Hagen & Paul Muldoon (World Premiere 2003)

The Center for Contemporary Opera Development Series

A Call for Scores and Libretti

Funding for the CCO Development Series is generously provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Center for Contemporary Opera Development Series provides composers, librettists, and opera companies an opportunity to hear works before a supportive and knowledgeable panel and audience, allowing for revisions, edits, and similar improvements prior to the premiere. Through this program we offer libretto readings, ateliers (staged readings with piano), and concert readings with orchestra.

The Center for Contemporary Opera welcomes submissions of completed or in-progress scores and libretti. Operas that have been commissioned or have received a performance commitment will receive priority.

To apply, please send:

1. Score or libretti (piano/vocal score acceptable)

2. Background of the composer/librettists and any previous performance history of the work.

3. Cover letter stating: a) the composer/librettist has obtained permission to adapt the source material for an opera, b) if the opera has been commissioned or received a performance commitment along with pertinent details.

The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2014. Due to the large number of worthy scores already received, we will only be accepting operas that have a firm performance commitment from an Opera America member company or equivalent.  Please send your package to:

Center for Contemporary Opera
Development Series
PO Box 3169
New York, NY 10163

If using FedEx or UPS, please contact the company’s office for mailing instructions.

For some background about the CCO Development Series, the types of development programs offered and the selection process, please read below.

Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde by Barry O’Neal, CCO Development Series

Developmental Programs:

Through our strategic planning process, we have made a concerted effort to emphasize and expand our long-standing developmental programs. Even though our Development Programs have taken place over many years, the generous award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow us to expand and increase the number of development programs to a great degree.

First, some background: almost ten years ago — as a response to the “what is opera – what is music theater?” questions that were being raised in the press and opera circles — CCO presented the first act of a new work at Lincoln Center’s Clark Theater with two separate casts: the first comprised of singers from the world of Broadway, the second from opera.  This experiment caught the attention of Estelle Parsons, then Artistic Director at The Actors Studio, who brought the work’s composer and librettist into the Studio’s Playwrights-Directors unit where the work underwent three years of development, culminating in a workshop production in 2005.  The process followed a format which has served The Actors Studio since its inception: a sequence of staged readings — anywhere from 6 months to a year apart — each followed by a critique and discussion by a professional panel comprised of composers, directors, librettists and producers, moderated by a senior studio member.

CCO followed the process carefully and ultimately decided to adopt a similar format for its so-called “atelier series” (the term itself is taken from a statement made by Schoenberg: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if composers had “ateliers” like painters, where they could go to practice their art?)  The intent of the atelier series was to open up the development process to a greater number of composers and librettists– not just to those whose works were being considered for a full CCO production.

From this beginning ten years ago, CCO has continued and refined its atelier process. Indeed, the New Yorker called us “an invaluable company that serves as a clearinghouse for all sorts of operas”.

We should also note that this emphasis on developing opera does not diminish our desire to produce opera. We just enjoyed a wonderful success with our premiere of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by John Eaton and this year will give the world premiere of CCO’s first commissioned opera (a co-commission with San Antonio Opera and Long Leaf Opera), The Secret Agent, by Michael Dellaira and J.D. McClatchy.  In fact, the production of opera enables us to refine our developmental methodology.

The Process:

Through press releases to professional musical organizations, and direct mailings to Opera America member companies, we call for submissions of works, completed or in-progress. Interested artists, composers, librettists, and companies would submit their scores/libretti to us for possible inclusion in one of our programs. Once received, the submissions are cataloged and prepared for the selection process.


The Selection Committee is chaired by the Center’s composer-in-residence and consists of the Artistic Director, two musically astute board members, and experts serving in a professional capacity in the opera and/or music-theater world. Those operas that have already received a commission or a production commitment receive priority in the selection process. Once the selections have been made, a press release is issued to insure the program receives maximum exposure.

What programs do we offer?

Selected operas/libretti and the creative team behind them would then be eligible for the following developmental programs, currently in existence, conducted by the Center for Contemporary Opera.

Prima le Parole

Libretto readings: Our Prima le Parole series assists librettists in the development of their work. Libretti are read and directed by professional actors and directors.  The objective is not to see whether the libretto works as a play, but rather to analyze the libretto’s structure both from a dramaturgical and musical perspective, since if problems of exist at this level, it is very unlikely they can be fixed in the music; indeed, the addition of music may only make the underlying problems harder to identify.


The opera (or scenes) is presented in an intimate venue such as the cell theatre in Chelsea.  The press may be invited, but in a public relations role only, and are asked not to review the process.   Ateliers are minimally staged and are performed with piano accompaniment. The singers are “on book”. The music director typically conducts from the piano.

Concert Reading:

These allow the composer to hear the work performed with orchestra. As with the ateliers, the performers are  on-book and receive minimal stage direction.  Typical venues include the Leonard Nimroy Thalia Theater at Symphony Space or The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater.

As stated earlier, all these programs evolved out of CCO’s history of staged readings into something that was modeled closely on The Actors Studio’s “playwright-directors’ workshop, where works (or segments of works) are presented in a “safe” context, followed by a panel of professionals: directors, composers, librettists, conductors, with a moderator who keeps the discussion on track and can solicit questions and comments from the audience. The creative team, after noting these comments, goes back to the drawing board and returns to repeat the process. While the audience may be asked to fill out questionnaires regarding the performance, they are typically not asked to participate in the discussion.  Again, critics are sometimes invited, but are asked not to review the results.

For more information about the CCO Development Series, please contact us at or call 646-481-8110