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2024 Phoenix/Tempe Conference
Our Sounds and Stories

2024 Phoenix/Tempe Conference: January 3-6
NOA's 69th Annual National Conference

NOA's 69th Annual National Conference was held at the Tempe Mission Palms, January 3-6, 2024:

This January, you are invited to an opera oasis in Tempe, AZ, as streams of our profession converge. Join creators and performers advancing the emerging golden age of American opera – sharing our sounds and stories.

Conference Highlights

The conference's special focus on new works and creators began on Wednesday evening, Jan. 3, with a performance of Sanctuary and Storm (Tawnie Olson, composer, and Roberta Barker, librettist), the winner of the 2023 Chamber Opera Competition. The Keynote Address was given by the illustrious American composer Jake Heggie at the Thursday luncheon, which was followed by a distinguished panel comprised of composers, librettists, and opera creators discussing how new operas impact current audiences and tell our story to future generations. Part Two of NOA and OPERA America's co-hosted series "Voice and Opera Curricula: Training for Sustainable Careers" continued the discussion begun with the Sept. 14 webinar, and the Saturday closing banquet saw NOA's Lifetime Achievement Award given to Mark Campbell, foremost American librettist, and Legacy Awards given to composer Adolphus Hailstork and soprano and educator Hilda Harris.

The conference was also rich with sessions exploring the tools and topics relevant to the professional opera educator, including a pre-conference workshop intensive on Intimacy Direction (see below). Peruse the conference schedule to see all that was offered at the conference!

Conference Program 

2024 Phoenix/Tempe Conference Highlights

Keynote Address
Jake Heggie
Photo credit: James Niebuhr

The conference Keynote Address was given by renowned composer Jake Heggie at the opening luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 4.

American composer Jake Heggie is best known for Dead Man Walking, the most widely performed new opera of the last 20 years, with a libretto by Terrence McNally, and his critically acclaimed operas Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, and It’s a Wonderful Life, all with libretti by Gene Scheer. In addition to 10 full-length operas and numerous one-acts, Heggie has composed more than 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral, and orchestral works, which have been performed on five continents. A bold new production of Dead Man Walking opens the Metropolitan Opera’s 23/24 season, while Intelligence, created with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer, receives its world premiere on opening night of Houston Grand Opera’s season. Elsewhere, Before It All Goes Dark premieres in Seattle and tours to Chicago and San Francisco, while The Elements: Fire, Heggie’s new commission for violinist Joshua Bell, premieres at Germany’s Elbphilharmonie and tours to major stages in New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Hong Kong.

NOA Lifetime Achievement Award
Mark Campbell
Photo credit: Stephen Tracy

Mark Campbell, whose work as a librettist is at the forefront of the contemporary opera scene in the United States, received NOA's highest award, a Lifetime Achievement Award, at the closing banquet on Saturday, Jan. 6.

The Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning operas of librettist/lyricist Mark Campbell are among the most successful in the contemporary canon. Mark has written 40 opera librettos, lyrics for 7 musicals and text for 9 song cycles and 5 oratorios. His works include Silent Night, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, The Shining, Elizabeth Cree, Sanctuary Road, As One, The Manchurian Candidate, Stonewall, Burke & Hare, A Thousand Acres, Edward Tulane, Unruly Sun, Later the Same Evening and Songs from an Unmade Bed. Mark has mentored future generations of librettists and composers at the American Opera Project, American Lyric Theatre and as a founding member of the American Opera Initiative. He created and funds the Campbell Opera Librettist Prize, the first award for opera librettists in the history of the art form and co-created the True Voice Award for transgender singers.

"Lift Every Voice" Legacy Award

Composer Adolphus Hailstork and soprano Hilda Harris each received the "Lift Every Voice" Legacy Award, given at the closing banquet on Saturday, Jan. 6.

Adolphus Hailstork

Adolphus Hailstork received his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University, where he was a student of H. Owen Reed.  He had previously studied at the Manhattan School of Music, under Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, at the American Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger, and at Howard University with Mark Fax.

Dr. Hailstork has written numerous works for chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, orchestra, and opera.

Among his early compositions are: CELEBRATION, recorded by the Detroit Symphony in 1976;  OUT OF THE DEPTHS (1977), and AMERICAN GUERNICA (1983), are two band works which won national competitions. CONSORT PIECE (1995) commissioned by the Norfolk (Va.) Chamber Ensemble, was awarded first prize by the University of Delaware Festival of Contemporary Music.

Significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York) have been led by leading conductors such as James de Priest, Paul Freeman, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maezel, Jo Ann Falletta and David Lockington. In March 2019 , Thomas Wilkins conducted Hailstork’s AN AMERICAN PORT OF CALL with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Hailstork’s second and third symphonies were recorded by the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra (David Lockington)  and were released by Naxos.  Another Naxos recording, AN AMERICAN PORT OF CALL (Virginia Symphony Orchestra) was released in spring 2012. A new Naxos recording featuring Hailstork’s PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1 will be released in April of 2023.

Some of Hailstork’s new pieces include THE WORLD CALLED (based on Rita Dove’s poem TESTIMONIAL), a work for soprano, chorus and orchestra commissioned by the Oratorio Society of Virginia (premiered in May 2018) and STILL HOLDING ON (February 2019), an orchestra work commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Works more recently premiered include TULSA 1921 and A KNEE ON THE NECK. His SYMPHONY NO.4. Will be premiered in NYC in March 2023 and PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2, commissioned by Lara Downes, will be premiered in Richmond ,Virginia in October.

Dr. Hailstork is a retired college professor who resides in Virginia Beach Virginia.


"Lift Every Voice" Legacy Award

Hilda HarrisHILDA HARRIS, mezzo soprano, was the first woman of color to perform Trouser Roles at the Metropolitan Opera, made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the triple roles of the Schoolboy, the Wardrobe Mistress, and the Page in the Met’s first production of the three-act version of Lulu and later returned to create the title role of the Child in the celebrated David Hockney production of Ravel’s L’ Enfant et les Sortileges. Her repertoire at the Met included Cherubino in Le Nozze de Figaro, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Stephano in Romeo et Juliette. She has enjoyed a distinguished and highly versatile career.

She has performed throughout the United States. Especially renowned for her portrayal of Carmen, Ms. Harris has performed the role more than 50 times at opera houses in the United States and in Europe. She also has appeared in leading roles at the opera companies of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego, Fort Worth, Miami, St. Paul, Hartford, Kentucky, and Milwaukee.

She was a member of the Chicago based Black Music Research Ensemble whose purpose it is to discover, disseminate, preserve, and promote black music in all its forms and to promote appreciation for the black musical heritage. Ms. Harris’s accomplishments have been documented in “And So I Sing,” by Rosalyn M.Story, “Black Women in American, An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hines, “The Music of Black Americans”, by Eileen Southern, and “African-American Singers” by Patricia Turner to name a few.

Ms. Harris taught voice at Howard University (1991-1995). She was on the voice faculty at The Chautauqua Institute for sixteen years. Before retiring in the Fall of 2019, Ms. Harris was a tenured professor of voice at Sarah Lawrence College for over 20 years and was on the voice faculty at The Manhattan School of Music for 21 years.

Past NOA Conferences