The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the winners of the Charles Ives Opera Prize of $50,000 and the Virgil Thomson Award of $40,000. These two prizes are the largest that are given exclusively to American composers of vocal music.
The Charles Ives Opera Prize, made possible by the royalties to Charles Ives’s music, awards $35,000 to a composer and $15,000 to a librettist. It is being given this year to composer Lewis Spratlan and librettist James Maraniss for Life is a Dream. Though written between 1975 and 1978 on a commission from the New Haven Opera Theatre, the company never staged the opera because it folded in 1977 and it remained unperformed for decades. In January 2000, Dinosaur Annex gave two concert performances of the opera’s second act which resulted in that portion of the work receiving the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Another concert performance of the second act took place during New York City Opera’s VOX Festival in 2002, but the opera did not receive a fully staged performance until it was mounted by the Santa Fe Opera in 2010. [Click here to read Frank J. Oteri’s conversation with Lewis Spratlan a week after Life is a Dream Act II, Concert Version was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize.]
The Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music, which was endowed by the Virgil Thomson Foundation, has being given to composer and performer Kate Soper. Below are video highlights from Molly Sheridan’s conversation with Kate Soper published on NewMusicBox earlier this year.
Candidates for the Charles Ives Opera Prize and the Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music were nominated by the Academy’s composer members, and winners chosen by a special jury of members who met frequently between June 2015 and February 2016. The awards, which will be given at the annual Ceremonial in mid-May.