The nation’s non-profit opera ecosystem is a rich, diverse, and evolving tapestry of composers, librettists, singers, instrumentalists, conductors, stage directors, costume designers, lighting directors, dramaturgs, choruses, dancers, choreographers, costumers, and educators, as well as professional opera companies, amateur opera companies, opera festivals, opera presenters, music festivals, professional artist development programs, music organizations and ensembles, producing companies, presenting entities, guilds, service organizations, and other organizations whose work involves the creation, production, or enjoyment of opera. A relatively new and expanding component of this system focuses on the intersection between opera, health, and well-being.

Through our work, the NEA aims to strengthen the opera ecosystem, by supporting projects that have potential regional, national, or field-wide significance, and that nurture the interdependent relationships between and among stakeholders. Organizations of all types and sizes are encouraged to apply. The opera program supports a variety of opera performances, productions, and presentations. In addition to projects that focus on the standard repertoire, the NEA encourages the commissioning, development, performance, and professional recording of new or recent operatic works. Applications for collaborations and innovative projects that engage audiences and other stakeholders in new and meaningful ways are encouraged. 

Moving beyond the silo of the arts sector, the NEA encourages collaborations between opera companies and other sectors such as education, healthcare, technology, and social services. This can involve joint projects, shared resources, and cross-sector initiatives that demonstrate the value and relevance of opera beyond traditional artistic boundaries. In addition, we welcome applications that embrace the participation of artists, arts workers, partners, and audiences from a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures, socioeconomic statuses, aesthetic viewpoints, disability perspectives, and/or geographic areas. We seek to support projects that encourage diversity in the stories told from the stage, in casting decisions, in the behind-the-scenes creative teams, as well as in opera staff members, board members, and audience members.

Applicants may request cost share/matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

For information on how to submit an application, see “How to Apply” on the left.

Project Types

Applications must be for projects only. A project may consist of one or more specific events or activities. A project should not cover an entire season of programming as we do not fund seasonal or general operating support.

We welcome and encourage applicants to review the FAQs and applicant requirements, and to contact the artistic discipline staff to discuss potential proposed project types, many of which are listed below. 

Commissions, Development/Workshops, Premieres, Performances, and Presentations 

  • Creation of new operatic works, especially those that have innovative elements or that cross genres;
  • Commissions and/or co-commissions;
  • Development and workshops of new and/or innovative operatic works;
  • Premieres of operas;
  • Repeat productions of previously-premiered 21st century operatic works;
  • New productions of traditional and contemporary operas;
  • Productions in collaboration with other opera companies (co-productions);
  • Remounting of existing opera productions;
  • Fully-staged opera presentations;
  • Semi-staged or concert opera (contact the NEA’s 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 Artist Development 

  • Post-conservatory professional artist development training programs for musicians, including vocal coaching, diction, language, acting, stage movement, conducting, mentorship, and career development;
  • Professional development and/or residencies for composers, librettists, conductors, directors, designers, and singers;
  • Residencies and workshops with artists that focus on the creation of opera works, or training in the opera artform.

Recordings, Technology, Education, and Engagement

  • Recordings of opera works (by international or American composers);
  • Technology projects such as broadcasts or streaming (including simulcast performances and online resources that provide public access to opera);
  • Archival, documentation, and preservation projects;
  • Education and related activities for youth, adults, and intergenerational groups;
  • Community engagement projects that involve diverse communities and/or reach new audiences;
  • Innovative methods of engaging audiences including collaborations with other organizations, and new approaches that have the potential to increase the impact on audiences, artists, communities, and/or the opera field;
  • Opera performances and activities in public spaces intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community;
  • Projects that advance and/or sustain the creative work of and/or careers for people with disabilities through employment, training, technical assistance, and organization capacity-building;
  • Projects that include planning, research, and training that supports an organization’s capacity to respond to current events.

Opera and Health/Well-being

  • Projects that demonstrate the current and potential connections between opera, health, and well-being, such as programs that serve aging adults with memory care needs, initiatives for underserved individuals with chronic health conditions, and those that aim to improve neurological health for children with autism, to name a few,

Services to the Opera Field

  • Services to the opera field that reach a broad constituency of artists (including singers, composers, librettists, stage directors, conductors, lighting and costume designers), music educators, arts administrators, and/or volunteers. These may include, but are not limited to: 
    • Arts and arts-related workshops, conferences, convenings;
    • Leadership training, and other professional development opportunities for artists and arts administrators;
    • Archiving, preservation and documentation projects. 
  • Services to the opera field that engage with historically underserved groups/communities, including artists and other arts workers. This may include working to advance racial equity in the opera ecosystem - by encouraging collaboration with and providing opportunities for people of color.
  • Projects that focus on the role of opera in building social cohesion and benefit the public good.

Competitive opera proposals will address elements as stated in the application review criteria, and include some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Have regional, national, or field-wide significance. This includes local projects that can have significant impact within communities or are likely to demonstrate best practices for the opera field;
  • Reflect their communities (the people who live there, their artists, cultural organizations, and community organizations) and engage stakeholders in meaningful ways;
  • Include elements of sound “civic practice.” Organizations that invest in this work leverage opera’s creative assets to address public priorities and community needs, and they often partner with organizations from different sectors with whom they build sustained relationships that lead to successful co-creation;
  • Focus on understanding and elevating how opera can contribute to healthy communities, understanding the arts comprehensively and holistically, leveraging the intrinsic value of the arts, and also understanding how arts and culture can strengthen other fields (such as health, community development, and education, among others);
  • Demonstrate alignment with the NEA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Projects that shine a light on different perspectives, cultural histories, life experiences, and personal stories enrich opera and the organizations that produce it;
  • Explore with a new lens those historic opera works that contain problematic ethnic depictions and other troubling elements, and create new interpretations that have the power to help heal divides.

In some cases, a project that involves opera may be better suited for review in another discipline. Review the Artistic Disciplines page for more information, including guidance on educational projects.

For questions, including help choosing the right discipline, contact NEA staff:
Georgianna Paul Schuetz, or 202-682-5600

Compliance Reminders:

The NEA is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and fostering mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all individuals and groups. Please note the following:

  • Civil Rights Laws and Policies: As a reminder, in the federal-funding context, a focus on a particular group or demographic may be permissible, but exclusion is not. This extends to hiring practices, artist selection processes, and audience engagement. Your application should make it clear that project activities are not exclusionary. Please review the Assurance of Compliance, as well as NEA Civil Rights guidance on our website, including this archived webinar: Things to Know Before You Apply: Federal Civil Rights and Your Grants Application.
  • Accessibility: Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities may be audiences, visitors, artists, performers, teaching artists, students, staff, and volunteers. Funded activities should be held in a physically accessible venue, and program access and effective communication should be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you will be asked to provide detailed information describing how you will make your project physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.
  • National Historic Preservation Act and/or the National Environmental Policy Act Review: Recommended projects may be subject to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and/or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance review. See more information about NHPA/NEPA review under Award Administration.


Grants for Arts Projects applications will be accepted at two deadlines. All project types (described above) are accepted at both deadlines. Apply at the deadline that most closely fits the schedule of activities or timeline of your proposed project. Generally, an organization is limited to one application per year in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

First Grants for Arts Projects Deadline:

Part 1 - Submit to

February 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens

Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal

February 21-28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection

November 2024

Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project

January 1, 2025

Second Grants for Arts Projects Deadline:

Part 1 - Submit to

July 11, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens

Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal

July 16-23, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection

April 2025

Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project

June 1, 2025