Prototype Festival

Prototype Festival is an annual, weeklong contemporary opera and musical theater festival held in New York City.

Prototype Festival
Location(s)New York City, NY
Years active2013-present
Organized byBeth Morrison


Prototype Festival is an annual, weeklong festival of contemporary opera and musical theater.[1] The festival encourages nontraditional operatic compositions and performance, or "black-box opera", combining classical techniques with experimental theater.[2] Prototype has a reputation for showing "brash, socially engaged, and substantially post-classical" work[3]—shows with highly charged,[4] "dark, edgy" themes.[5]

Its shows are held in venues across New York City, including venues such as the HERE Arts Center, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Joe's Pub, St. Paul's Chapel, the Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann's Warehouse,[6] National Sawdust, and Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.[3]


The first Prototype Festival was organized by alternative opera producer Beth Morrison and the HERE Arts Center's Kristin Marting and Kim Whitener in 2013. Their intent was to highlight composers whose nontraditional work rarely received commissions.[2]


The festival has a reputation for producing new operas of high quality. While classical music institutions struggled to sell new work to its core audience, classical music critic Anne Midgette cited Prototype as developing an audience for opera outside of these institutions and evolving the form into less of a "bourgeois art form". Prototype rose to prominence quickly, Midgette wrote, from a confluence of the opera world's "desperation" to find new, good work and the reduced costs of staging an experimental show outside of major mainstages.[5] Without remaking the genre, she wrote that Prototype provides the creativity and energy to attempt new works.[7]

The New Yorker wrote that Prototype's 11-day 2014 lineup produced more substance for the format than a decade of the New York City Opera. The magazine noted the festival's equal time given to female artists as deviant from New York theater norms.[2]

World premieresEdit

As of 2019, Prototype's headlining shows tended to premiere outside of the festival.[8]

Year Opera Composer Libretto
2018 Acquanetta, chamber version Michael Gordon Deborah Artman [9]
2018 The Echo Drift Mikael Karlsson Elle Kunnos de Voss, Kathryn Walat [9]
2017 Mata Hari Matt Marks [10]
2016 Angel's Bone Du Yun Royce Vavrek [3][11]
2014 The Scarlet Ibis Stefan Weisman David Cote [6]
2014 Sunken Cathedral Bora Yoon Bora Yoon [6]


  1. ^ Jorden, James (January 7, 2019). "Joseph Keckler's New Musical Is an Enigmatic Highlight of NYC's Prototype Festival". Observer. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Ross, Alex (January 27, 2014). "The Opera Lab". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X.
  3. ^ a b c Platt, Russell (January 1, 2016). "The Prototype Festival's Modern Classics". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X.
  4. ^ Ross, Alex (January 21, 2019). "Psychotic Opera at the Prototype Festival". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X.
  5. ^ a b Midgette, Anne (January 18, 2016). "At an opera festival, tales of drug cartels. At opera houses, same old song". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  6. ^ a b c Kozinn, Allan (July 22, 2014). "Prototype Festival to Bring Three World Premieres to New York". The New York Times. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  7. ^ Midgette, Anne (January 7, 2019). "Review – Opera needs to change. Prototype festival shows one new path". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  8. ^ Rockwell, John (January 7, 2019). "Prototype Festival, New York — from awkward to superb". Financial Times. Archived from the original on September 3, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Waleson, Heidi (January 12, 2018). "Prototype Festival Review: Adventures in the Opera World". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
  10. ^ Cooper, Michael (July 16, 2018). "Prototype: An Opera Festival That Actually Earns Its Name". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  11. ^ Waleson, Heidi (January 11, 2016). "Dystopia on Stage at Prototype Festival". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit