Guest Artists and Presenters Announced for 2011 NEA Opera Honors Award Ceremony on October 27, 2011

NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg and soprano Sarah Coburn among those to participate

Washington, DC -- The 2011 NEA Opera Honors award ceremony promises to be an evening of compelling stories and beautiful voices gathered to celebrate the achievements of four master artists: scenic and costume designer John Conklin, general director Speight Jenkins, mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens, and composerRobert Ward. The event takes place on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in downtown Washington, DC. The NEA is pleased to partner with OPERA America in presenting this celebration which also serves as the launch for National Opera Week, October 28 through November 6, 2011.

Joining the honorees on stage is a cadre of special guests.

Nina Totenberg will serve as host for the evening and will moderate a conversation with the honorees. An award-winning legal affairs correspondent with National Public Radio (NPR), Totenberg can be heard on NPR's news magazines All Things ConsideredMorning Edition, and Weekend Edition. She is also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly, syndicated public affairs television program.

Washington National Opera guest artist, soprano Sarah Coburn, will join tenor Lawrence Brownlee and mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson in musical tributes to the honorees. Coburn, who has performed leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and the Vienna Staatsoper, will perform the title role in Washington National Opera's upcoming production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

The presenter for each of the honorees include: 

  • For Robert Ward: John Mauceri, chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and founding director and conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
  • For Speight Jenkins: Stephen Wadsworth who has directed opera productions at Seattle Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden (London), and Teatro alla Scala (Milan), among others 
  • For Risë Stevens: Nicolas Surovy, film and television actor and son of Ms. Stevens
  • For John Conklin: Robert Wierzel, lighting designer for theater, opera, museum installations, and dance.

There are three ways to reserve free tickets for the award ceremony; call the box office at 202.547.1122, visit the web site, or visit the box office at 610 F Street NW, across from the Verizon Center.

If you are not able to attend the event, you can watch it live via webstream at the NEA web site. The webcast will be archived immediately after the event and can be accessed at along with bios, photos and video interviews for the four honorees. Join the Twitter conversation #neaopera.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


Victoria Hutter

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