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Chamber Opera Composition Competition

Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition

2024-25 Competition Winner Announced

Congratulations to Douglas Buchanan, composer, and Caitlin Vincent, librettist, whose work, Bessie and Ma, was selected as the winner of the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition from the finalists at the 2024 National Conference in Tempe, AZ. 

This work will be produced in its entirety at the January 2025 National Conference in Savannah, GA.

The competition committee congratulates all three finalist works, excerpts of which were performed at the National Conference in January 2024 in Tempe, AZ:

  • Bessie and Ma, by Douglas Buchanan, composer, and Caitlin Vincent, librettist
  • A Braided Light, by Paul Richards, composer, and Wendy Steiner, librettist
  • An Incident in Sutton Square, by Martin J Hennessy, composer and Stephen Kitsakos, librettist

Sanctuary and Storm, ASU
Sanctuary and Storm, produced by ASU in January 2024


About the Competition

The Ghosts of Gatsby
Scene from The Ghosts of Gatsby,
by Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire,
2019-20 winning production

The Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition encourages the composition and performance of chamber-scale operas for production in college, university, and conservatory opera programs as well as young artist programs. The competition runs in two-year cycles. In the first year, composers submit scores for preliminary judging. Three finalists are chosen and excerpts from those operas are presented at the national conference for competition. The winning opera, chosen from among the three finalists, is produced in its entirety at the NOA conference the following year.

2023-24 Competition Cycle (Previous Cycle) Submission Deadline: May 1, 2023 
(Deadline has passed;  the next submission round will have a deadline of May 1, 2025)

Scenes of the three finalist works for this competition cycle will be produced at the national conference in Tempe, AZ, in January 2024.

The submission deadline for the current round of competition (2023-2024 cycle) is May 1, 2023.


  • The Chamber Opera Competition is open to all applicants, regardless of age or nationality, with the exception of composers or librettists of finalist works in the most recent competition cycle (2021-23), and composers or librettists of winning works within the last three competition cycles (since the 2017-18 cycle).
  • All submissions must be unpublished operas not accepted by a publisher for either publication or rental.
  • Performance of a work (unless by a major opera company) does not disqualify it for submission.
  • Language: English
  • Length: No more than 60 minutes
  • Orchestration: Maximum of 20 players
  • Applicants may submit more than one opera provided that each conforms to competition guidelines.

Submission Procedure

  • All applications must be submitted by May 1, 2023.
  • Judging is blind; therefore applicants must remove all identifying information from scores and any provided recordings to assure anonymity to the adjudicating panel.
  • A complete piano-vocal score must be submitted in PDF format, uploaded in the application form. The score must include a title page that indicates the cast of characters with voice types, and the size and instrumentation of the orchestra. The names of the composer and librettist must not appear anywhere on the title page, in the score, or in the filename. While the orchestration (actual or planned) must be indicated, full orchestral scores should not be submitted, as they will not be reviewed.
  • For works that have been fully or partially recorded or videotaped, applicants are encouraged to provide a link to audio or video recording(s).  Please ensure that any provided links to media (on Youtube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, etc.) will be accessible for committee review through Sept 1, 2023, and that they will not contain any identifying information (including account names on the service!).
  • Finally, for submissions to be accepted and reviewed, payment of a $25 fee must be made online, also due May 1, 2023.

After Life
Scene from After Life, by Tom Cipullo
and David Mason, 2016-18 winning production


If the libretto is based on an existing work or source material not in the public domain, the submission application must include written evidence of permission to use the work, without which submissions will not be adjudicated.

Composers and librettists of selected finalist works will receive complimentary conference registration if they choose to attend the conference, but will be responsible for their own travel and housing.  The composer and librettist of the winning work selected for a full production will receive both complimentary registration and travel and housing to attend the NOA conference and the work's performance.

By submitting this work for adjudication, the creators agree that if selected as the competition winner, they will permit NOA, along with its producing institution, to present and advertise a full production of the work during its national conference in January 2025, including waiving of any relevant performance rights and fees. Arrangements and coordination with any commissioning entity, publishers, composer/librettist representative, relevant copyright holders, etc. will be the responsibility of the creators.  Finalized performance materials (piano/vocal score, full score, and instrumental parts) for the winning work must be submitted to NOA by July 1, 2024 and must employ the same orchestration as described in the initial application, unless otherwise agreed in advance. 

Selection Procedure

A distinguished panel of composers and opera directors select the winning finalists. Scenes from three operas chosen as finalists are presented in a showcase performance with piano at the NOA national conference in January following the application deadline. The opera chosen as the winner of the NOA Chamber Opera Competition is then performed in a full production with instrumental ensemble at the national conference in the following year.

Entries will be evaluated on vocal writing, dramatic sense, musical elements, performability, and orchestration.  The adjudication will consider these criteria with regards to the competition's mission to encourage the composition and performance of chamber-scale operas for production in college, university, and conservatory opera programs as well as young artist programs.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider a balance of voice types in their work that will be feasible to cast, and to consider reasonable production demands (e.g. technical, scenic, or other visual requirements) which could allow the work to be produced by programs both large and small. 

2021-23 Winner

Congratulations to Tawnie Olson, composer, and Roberta Barker, librettist, whose work, Sanctuary and Storm, was selected as the winner of the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition from the finalists at the 2022 National Conference in St. Augustine.  This work was produced in its entirety at the January 2024 National Conference in Tempe, AZ.

Read More

Congratulations to all three finalists in the 2021-23 competition round:

  • The Parting: music by Tom Cipullo, libretto by David Mason
  • Hajar: music by Elisabeth Mehl Greene, libretto by composer
  • Sanctuary and Storm: music by Tawnie Olson, libretto by Roberta Barker

Tawnie Olson

Composer of Sanctuary and Storm

Roberta Barker

Librettist of Sanctuary and Storm


Past Winners

The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret
Scene from The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret,
by Leanna Kirchoff, 2014-16 winning production

2019-2020: The Ghosts of Gatsby, music by Evan Mack, libretto by Joshua McGuire

2017-2018: After Life, music by Tom Cipullo, libretto by David Mason

2015-2016: The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret, music and libretto by Leanna Kirchoff

2013-2014: An Embarrassing Position, music and libretto by Dan Shore

2011-2012: Confession, by Raphael Lucas (composer) and Jacques Trussel and Margaret Vignola (librettists)

2009-2010: The Beautiful Bridegroom, music and libretto by Dan Shore

2007-2008: Tony Caruso's Final Broadcast, by Paul Salerni (composer) and Dana Gioia (librettist)

2005-2006: Where the Cross is Made, by Nancy Van de Vate (composer), adapted from a play by Eugene O'Neill.

2003-2004: unknown

2001-2002: Cleo, by Bruce Trinkley (composer) and Jason Charnesky (libretto)

1999-2000: Eve's Odds, by Bruce Trinkley (composer) and Jason Charnesky (libretto)

1997-1998: unknown

1994-1995: With Blood, With Ink, by Daniel Crozier (composer) and Peter M. Krask (librettist)

1992-1993: Tobermory, by Jorge Martin (composer) and Andrew Joffe (librettist)

1990-1991: Co-winners: The Boor, by Donald Grantham, and Uncharted Waters, by Milton Granger

1988-1989: The Skin Drum, by Julian Grant

1986-1987: The Gentle Boy, by Philip Rhodes

1984-1985: Aria da Capo, by Bern Herbolshimer


Questions regarding the competition may be addressed to:
Paul Houghtaling, competition chair, at , or to
Kirk Severtson, Executive Director, at or by calling 734.615.3784.