ART WORKS Guidelines: Opera

The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to nurturing and advancing the highest levels of operatic artistry to enrich communities across the nation. Opera is a multifaceted art form that can involve singing, acting, orchestral playing, scenic artistry, costume design, lighting, and dance to convey a story or dramatic concept.

Organizations of all types and sizes are welcome to apply, including professional opera companies, opera festivals, presenting organizations, training programs, and other organizations that commission, develop, or produce fully-staged operatic works and/or concert opera.

The National Endowment for the Arts supports the commission, development, presentation, and professional recordings of new or existing operatic works; professional artist development programs and artist residencies; and projects by service organizations. Applications for collaborations and innovative projects that engage audiences in new and meaningful ways are encouraged.


Art Works applications will be accepted at two deadlines. All project types (described below) are accepted at both deadlines. Generally, an organization is limited to one application per year in the Art Works category.


First Art Works Deadline:

Step 1 - Submit SF-424 to February 16, 2017
Register/renew by at least January 25
Submit by at least February 7
Step 2 - Submit Materials to NEA-GO February 23, 2017 to March 2, 2017
Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection November 2017
Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance January 1, 2018

Second Art Works Deadline:

Step 1 - Submit SF-424 to July 13, 2017
Register/renew by at least June 21
Submit by at least July 4
Step 2 - Submit Materials to NEA’s new applicant portal July 20, 2017 to July 27, 2017
Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection April 2018
Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance June 1, 2018

Project Types

Performances, presentations, and commissions

  • Creation of new operatic works, especially those that are innovative or that cross genres (including commissions, residencies, and workshops with artists).
  • Premieres.
  • Repeat productions of newly-premiered works.
  • New productions of traditional and contemporary operas.
  • Remounting of existing productions.
  • Concert opera (performances that are not fully staged). Contact the Opera staff before preparing a concert opera application.
  • Domestic touring.
  • Opera festivals and other events (may include performances, lecture-demonstrations, audience talk-backs, master classes, and workshops).

Professional artistic development

  • Artist residencies.
  • Post-conservatory professional development programs for artists including coaching, conducting, acting, stage movement, diction, language, mentorship, and career development.

Engagement, education, recordings, and technology

  • Community engagement projects that involve diverse communities and/or reach new audiences.
  • Education and related activities for youth, adults, and intergenerational groups.
  • Audience engagement initiatives (including collaborations with other organizations).
  • Opera performances and activities in public spaces intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.
  • Recordings of opera works (by international or American composers).
  • Technology projects (including simulcast performances and online resources that provide public access to opera).
  • Archival, documentation, and preservation projects.

Services to the opera field

  • Services to the opera field (for organizations, singers, composers, librettists, administrators, and/or volunteers).

If you are recommended for a grant, your project may be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act  (NEPA) and/or the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Endowment for the Arts will conduct a review of your project to ensure that it is in compliance NEPA/NHPA.

Some of the common project types that garner a review are:

  • A project involving or occurring near a district, site, building, landscape, structure or object that is 50 years old and therefore eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The commissioning and installation of temporary or permanent outdoor furnishings such as benches or market structures or art such as a sculpture or mural.
  • An arts festival in a park.
  • Design planning and services for projects that may involve a historic site, structure, or district.

This review and approval process may take up to several months to complete and may delay your project's start date and our ability to make a grant award/our ability to release grant funds.

To learn more about what questions you will need to answer for the review of a project impacted by the National Environmental Policy Act and/or the National Historic Preservation Act, see here.

Note: Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Funded activities must be held in an accessible venue and program access and effective communication must be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you will be asked to provide information describing how you will make your project physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.