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Opera Artists Receive 25K NEA Award

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The recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts' 2011 Opera Honors were announced today. The four honorees—stage designer John Conklin, executive Speight Jenkins, mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens, and composer and academic Robert Ward—will each receive a $25,000 prize for their lifetime contributions to opera in the United States. They will also be celebrated with a ceremony and concert in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27. Now in its fourth year, the award is the country's highest honor given for opera.
 
"These four individuals have contributed significantly to opera in the United States, lending their talents and commitment to enhancing what we see, hear, feel, and think about opera," said NEA director of music and opera Wayne Brown in a written statement.

Conklin is recognized as a primary figure in American stage design, having designed sets and costumes for theater, opera, and ballet companies around the world. Jenkins was appointed general director of the Seattle Opera in 1983 and is nationally recognized in the field of arts administration for having expanded and strengthened the company. Stevens has played the title role in Bizet's "Carmen" at New York's Metropolitan Opera 124 times and has appeared in films such as "The Chocolate Soldier" (1941) with Nelson Eddy and "Going My Way" (1944) with Bing Crosby. Ward has been chancellor of the North Carolina School for the Arts and a music professor at Duke University and has composed eight operas, including the Pulitzer Prize winner "The Crucible."

The candidates for this award are nominated by the public, and the winners are chosen by a panel of opera experts convened by the NEA. Free tickets to the awards ceremony will be available beginning in September.

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