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      WFMT Special Features

      2008 NEA Opera Honors

      Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, announced the first recipients of the NEA Opera Honors, the highest award our nation bestows in opera, and the WFMT Radio Network is pleased to bring you this 90-minute award ceremony LIVE on Friday, October 31, 2008. For stations not wishing to broadcast LIVE, we will provide a 59-minute edited version of the program available through December 31, 2008.

      The award goes to luminaries who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States. The honorees are soprano Leontyne Price; composer Carlisle Floyd; administrator Richard Gaddes, general director of the Santa Fe Opera and co-founder of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and maestro James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Also participating in the event was Plácido Domingo, renowned tenor and general director of the Washington National Opera, which partners with the NEA in this inaugural year.

      Some highlights include presentations by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Susan Graham, Sara Jessica Parker, and Marc Scorca, President of Opera America. Musical highlights include Falstaff Finale Tutto il mondo e burla; Susannah, Ain't it a Pretty Night; Le nozze di Figaro; Il trovatore, Tacea la notte.

      The NEA Opera Honors awards ceremony will be held on Friday evening, October 31, at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, with performances by the Washington National Opera and members of its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Other cities will host the event in future years.

      The 2008 NEA Opera Honors are being given in four categories.

      Carlisle Floyd, who receives the award for composer, has had a long and distinguished career and has written such memorable operas as Susannah and Of Mice and Men.

      In the category of advocate, Richard Gaddes has been the trailblazing director of two important festival companies in Santa Fe and St. Louis.

      As conductor, James Levine has led Metropolitan Opera premieres of works by many composers, from Mozart to Weill, as well as the world premieres of American operas by John Corigliano and John Harbison, and is responsible for building the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra into one of the greatest orchestras in the world.

      As the 2008 honoree for singer, Leontyne Price is known for her elegant musical style, great recording legacy, and generosity to young artists.

      Plácido Domingo said, "I am especially pleased that singers from Washington National Opera's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program will perform at the first NEA Opera Honors gala, letting us pay tribute to legends of American opera through the emerging mastery of a new generation."

      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 or 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.

      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.