The WFMT Radio Network

WFMT Radio Network

NEA Opera Honors Gala

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), announced the recipients of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors, the highest award our nation bestows in opera, and the WFMT Radio Network is pleased to present you this 2-hour award ceremony from the Sydney Harman Theater in Washington, DC.
Americans turn to the arts for inspiration and solace, especially in times of duress.  It is often the work of master artists that conjures the kind of transcendent experiences we seek.  The recipients of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors are such individuals; luminaries who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States.  Now in its fourth year, the NEA Opera Honors is the highest award our nation bestows in opera.  This year's class is noteworthy, not only for their individual accomplishments at our country's flagship opera companies, but also for the delight they brought us and what they shared with us in the course of their careers.  Their influences have been profound and their connections to American music, stories and even political figures have enriched the music world.  We salute their achievements.

Opera, a musical dramatic and visual arts experience, has the power to communicate to a wide audience through a combination of forces and imagery - singers, orchestras, choruses and dancers; colorful costumes and innovative and elaborate set designs.  Opera has evolved through time and, in the United States, has been influenced by our national traditions; however universal themes are at its core.  Whether opera is produced on a grand scale or for an intimate chamber setting, the creators and interpreters bring to life, through music, stories that provide context for our human experiences.

NEA Opera Honors recipients are nominated by the public and chosen by an NEA-convened panel of opera experts.  When the program debuted four years ago, these were the first new NEA awards in 25 years to celebrate lifetime achievement and individual excellence.  In addition to an awards ceremony, the designation includes a one-time grant award of $25,000.  OPERA America partners with the NEA in managing the initiative.

The National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors honors those visionary creators, extraordinary performers and other interpreters who have made a lasting impact on our national cultural landscape.

NEA Director of Music and Opera Wayne S. Brown said, "This class of NEA Opera Honorees is four outstanding individuals, who together represent the finest traditions of opera.  Without their artistic accomplishments, the world of American opera would be far less extraordinary."

This year's honors go to:

John Conklin, Stage Designer
John Conklin is admired around the world for his career as a highly acclaimed stage designer.  His style is conceptual rather than literal, and through its open approach to design possibilities has had an enormous influence.  He is one of the principal figures in American stage design, both for opera and for theatre, and his set and costume designs are seen in opera houses, theaters and ballet companies across the world.

Speight Jenkins, General Director
Speight Jenkins is recognized nationally as a leading authority on opera and one of the most influential and accomplished general directors in the United States.

Risë Stevens, Performer
Risë Stevens is known and respected worldwide for her vibrant career in Opera. She virtually owned many of the great mezzo roles, such as Gluck's Orpheus (Orfeo ed Euridice), Saint-Saens' Delilah (Samson et Delila), Mozart's Cherubino (Le Nozze de Figaro), Ponchielli's Laura (La Gioconda), and Johann Strauss' Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus).  Her portrayal of Bizet's Carmen was a role she performed 124 times at the Met - one in which she was describes as voluptuous, earthy, and white-hot in her alternating moods of passion and anger.

Robert Ward, Composer
Robert Eugene Ward is respected and admired for his career as an American composer, conductor, administrator, educator and publishing executive.

One broadcast only, between November 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012.

For more information about this free special, please contact Tony Macaluso at (773) 279-2114, email: or Carol Martinez at (773) 279-2112, email: