Winners announced for The Atlanta Opera's 96-Hour Opera Project
L-R: Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director with competition winners, composer Dave Ragland and librettist Selda Sahin, and Antinori Foundation Grand Prize sponsor Ron Antinori. Credit: Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Opera

The winners for The Atlanta Opera’s annual 96-Hour Opera Project were announced this week at Morehouse College’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.

Now in its second year, the 96-Hour Opera Project is a competition that gives five selected teams of composers and librettists two months to write and four days to rehearse and prepare brand-new 10-minute operas.

Each team was tasked with selecting a groundbreaking Georgian to profile in their respective composition. The historical figures were chosen by The Atlanta Opera, and teams received research assistance from the Oakland Historical Foundation and Atlanta History Center.

“The rich history of Atlanta rests not only in the lives of the most famous but in the courage and strength of even the most unacclaimed people,” said Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of The Atlanta Opera.

“Our goals are to lift up the inspirational stories that reflect the multicultural history of Atlanta, to amplify the voices of a diverse group of talented emerging creators, and to share these new creations with Atlanta music lovers.”

This year’s grand prize winner was the team of Dave Ragland and Selda Sahin for their work, Steele Roots, which profiled 19th-century Atlanta figure, Carrie Steele Logan.

For finishing in first place, Ragland and Sahin each will share a $10,000 grand prize from The Antinori Foundation, in addition to receiving a commission to write a chamber opera for The Atlanta Opera.

The second-place winner was the pairing of Nathan Felix and Anita Gonzalez for their composition, Face in the Flames, which was about Thomas Askew. Felix and Gonzalez also took home the Audience Favorite award, which was decided by a vote.

The three other runner-up teams were: Edward Shilts and Laura Barat (Historical Figure Chosen, about Dr. Blanche Beatrice Saunders Thompson); Jorge Sosa and Alejandra Martinez (The Gardener, about Carrie Steele Logan); and Omar Najmi and Catherine Yu (A Portrait, about Thomas Askew).

All of the runner-up finalists received a $1,000 honorarium for their efforts.

The panel of judges that picked the winners consisted of: Mark Campbell (Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning librettist/lyricist), Andrea Davis Pinkney (librettist, award-winning author), Priti Gandhi (Portland Opera artistic director), Doug Hooker (CEO of the Midtown Connector Park project) and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden (co-interim artistic director of the Alliance Theater).

“With such talented participants, the judges had quite a challenge choosing our winners,” said Zvulun.

“These creators brought us words with both poetry and humor paired with musical scores in a variety of styles. These premieres were a real joy to witness.”

This year’s competition ran from June 9 through June 12. A performance showcase was also held during the 96-Hour Opera Project’s final evening.

For more information on the 96-Hour Opera Project and the winners, head over to

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