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Chamber Opera Composition Competition

Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition

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 will be produced in its entirety by the University of Houston at the January 2023 National Conference in Houston.

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Congratulations to all three finalists in the 2021-22 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


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 short operas especially useful in opera workshops and other training venues. 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 (even years) for competition. The winning opera, chosen from among the three finalists, is produced in its entirety at the NOA conference the following year (odd years).

Note: the next round of the competition, for 2023-24, will have a deadline of May 1, 2023. Please watch for updated competition guidelines. The previous cycle's guidelines appear below for reference.

2021-22 Competition Cycle Applications are closed; Previous round guidelines

Scenes of the three finalist works for this competition cycle will be produced at the national conference.

The submission deadline for the current round of competition (2021-2022 cycle) is May 1, 2020.


  • The Chamber Opera Competition is open to all applicants, regardless of age or nationality.
  • All submissions must be unpublished operas not accepted by a publisher for either publication or rental.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 completed by May 1, 2020.
  • 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, 2020, 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, 2020.

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

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 at the NOA annual conference in January of odd years. The opera chosen as the winner of the NOA Chamber Opera Competition is then performed in a full production at the conference in even years.

Entries will be evaluated on vocal writing, dramatic sense, musical elements, performability, and orchestration.

2019-20 Competition Winner

Congratulations to Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire for winning this year's competition at the finals in Salt Lake City, Jan. 4, 2019!  Their work, The Ghosts of Gatsby, was performed in its entirety at the 2020 National Conference in Cleveland.

The three finalist works were:

  • The Ghosts of Gatsby: music by Evan Mack, libretto by Joshua McGuire
  • The Surrogate: music by Sky Macklay, libretto by Emily Roller
  • Triangle: music by Tony Solitro, libretto by Tony Solitro, based on the play by Jane Martin

Selections from these three works were presented at the Annual Conference in Salt Lake City in January 2019, with one winning work selected for a full presentation at the following conference in January 2020.

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:
Copeland Woodruff, competition chair, at , or to
Kirk Severtson, Executive Director, at or by calling 734.615.3784.