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Jul 14, 2020 |
sacred_in_opera  |

Summer 2020 Words of Welcome from Sacred in Opera Initiative Chair, Isaí Jess Muñoz

Since 2008, the NOA’s Sacred in Opera Initiative has provided the field of opera with resources and presentations that share information on productions, research, pedagogy, and other happenings related to music-drama at interplay with world religions. In recent years, our initiative has highlighted operas and staged oratorios that engage with Buddhist, Bahá’í, Islamic, Judeo-Christian and other religious practices. The interplay of music-drama and religion has long formed a powerful catalyst for spiritual inquiry. From the emergence of the earliest known liturgical dramas heralding the rebirth of theatre after the Dark Ages, religion’s role in the development of dramatic and musical representation was pivotal in laying the foundations for Baroque opera and consequently modern opera. Today, music-dramas continue to provide a spiritual touchstone for artists and audiences, and we hope that all SIO resources reflect our team’s commitment to provide robust dialogue and respectful discourse that models what it means to produce music and theatre material in an increasingly diverse world. 

As we look with despair at many of today's ongoing global challenges, in line with the mission of the Sacred in Opera Initiative, this publication is shared with a positive awareness of religious diversity and the intentional practice of engaging people of different faiths for the betterment of our organization and society as a whole. In this latest issue of the SIO Newsletter, we focus our attention on operas inspired by Mormon and Jewish history and faith.
SIO recently took time to interview Dr. Murray Boren, who was longtime composer-in-residence and faculty member at Brigham Young University. Most of Dr. Boren’s nine completed and fully produced operas have been inspired by biblical narratives and occurrences within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Murray, respectfully and without pontificating, doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind. He’s been criticized by protectors of LDS teachings for posing moral and theological questions on the operatic stage. His works have fostered significant and sometimes uncomfortable discussions in The Church, but he says “writing is a process I needed to go through.”
We also welcome Dr. Kathleen Roland-Silverstein to the SIO writing team, who some of you may know from her important work as former editor of the NOA Opera Journal and as a frequent reviewer in the NATS Journal of Singing. Her first entry here focuses on a work highly regarded by Dmitri Shostakovich, Mieczyslaw Weingerg's The Passenger. Dr. Roland-Silverstein's regular column in the SIO Newsletter will focus on Judaic elements found in music-dramas, such as works written by Jewish composers or works which contain Jewish themes or material. Organizations such as The Milken Archive of Jewish Music and Music of Remembrance have made extraordinary strides in collecting and commissioning many of these works, and SIO is pleased to now take steps that intentionally support the continued exploration and producing of these significant musical masterpieces.

We’re pleased to introduce you to a sibling organization, deus ex musica. Founded by Dr. Delvyn Case (Associate Professor of Music at Wheaton College), this ecumenical group produces events and creates resources that allow church communities and individual Christians to engage with sacred music in ways that are valuable for learning and for Christian formation.

Lastly, in this issue, we’re excited to announce that Ms. Alice Parker, has been selected as recipient of the 2021 NOA Sacred in Opera Achievement Award. Ms. Parker is an extraordinary and prolific artist (composer, author, lyricist), who at 95 years young is still actively composing and contributing to the field of music. I recently had a telephone conversation with her and was reminded of what an incredible spirit, mind, and talent she is. The 2021 SIO Plenary Session at this year’s NOA Conference in St. Augustine, will celebrate Parker’s life and legacy. Her contributions to opera are often a surprise to people who think only of her work in choral literature. Her four operas and other musical works, some of which are also suitable for various forms of staging and dramatic presentation (cantatas, song cycles, and choral symphonies), offer a diversity of compositional style and approach that beyond her own distinctive voice, draws both on specifically American musical & textual sources. They offer unique and substantive opportunities to grapple with the sacred through the re-imagining of Biblical narratives and other writings on goodness. We are very excited to welcome Ms. Parker to our list of award recipients, and look forward to hosting a wonderful celebration of her career and spirit.

We invite you to read our call for submissions, and we encourage you to let your students and colleagues at all levels know, that we are here to support their scholarly-creative endeavors with opportunities to present their work through sessions at the NOA National Conference, our multiple regional events, and through publication in our newsletter. Each day we are experiencing right now brings new challenges, and the fields of voice and opera are adjusting in ways that none of us could ever have imagined…with innovative resilience, reassuring grace, heart-felt support and undying spirit. Driven by our organization’s values to care for one another and make a difference, your leaders at the National Opera Association continue to prudently and responsibly plan for our 2021 national conference in St. Augustine. I’m really looking forward to next January, where we will be able to come together once again, reminded that as a community of artists and educators, our collective resiliency, resourcefulness, kindness and willingness to adapt to rapid change is vital to our world!
Should you have any questions or ideas, please contact me or any members of the SIO Committee and we will be happy to help. We’re always eager to hear from you!

Dr. Isai Jess Muñoz, Chair and Senior Editor
NOA Sacred in Opera Initiative
Contact at:


About our Chair

Isaí Jess Muñoz serves as Associate Professor of voice and opera at the University of Delaware and as Vice President of Conferences at The National Opera Association. Since 2015, Dr. Muñoz has chaired NOA’s Sacred in Opera Initiative. He has appeared with leading organizations including the Israel Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival, New York City Opera, and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater on Broadway. Dr. Muñoz is featured on 14 audio recordings including the 2009 Grammy-Nominated Album "Song of the Stars" with Voices of Ascension. His latest solo album titled "Visca l'Amor," features 24 Catalan art songs by native composers. Dr. Muñoz is a graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and SUNY Stony Brook.