Words First: Talking Text in Opera-logo

Words First: Talking Text in Opera

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Conversations between host, Keturah Stickann, and librettists, lyricists, producers, and performing artists about opera text and storytelling to music.

Conversations between host, Keturah Stickann, and librettists, lyricists, producers, and performing artists about opera text and storytelling to music.


United States


Conversations between host, Keturah Stickann, and librettists, lyricists, producers, and performing artists about opera text and storytelling to music.




Deborah Brevoort and her Journey from Politics to Theater

Keturah interviews playwright and librettist, Deborah Brevoort, about her early political career in Alaska, her switch to theater, and her more recent work writing opera libretti. They go in depth on three operas: STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME, that had its stage premiere at Opera Colorado, THE KNOCK, that was presented as a film for the Glimmerglass Festival last year, and QUAMINO’S MAP, which is about to get its premiere at Chicago Opera Theater. Deborah Brevoort: https://www.deborahbrevoort.com/


Amy Stebbins and New Work Both Here and There

Keturah interviews director, dramatist, and librettist, Amy Stebbins, about the differences between libretti in the United States and libretti in Europe (particularly new work being written in Germany and Austria). They discuss the different ways of crafting a piece, why there isn’t a lot of cultural exchange of new works, and what to do about it. They also talk about some of Amy’s recent libretti, including a work in progress, entitled The People Out There. Amy Stebbins:...


Catherine Filloux and Writing Social Justice

Keturah interviews playwright and librettist, Catherine Filloux about her many works tackling social justice issues, as well as her work with Olga Neuwirth on the new opera, Orlando. Catherine Filloux: https://www.catherinefilloux.com/ Orlando: https://www.ricordi.com/en-US/News/2021/12/Neuwirth-Grawemeyer.aspx


Jennifer Cresswell and Kathleen Kelly on Writing Real Women

Keturah speaks with singer and librettist, Jennifer Cresswell, and conductor and librettist, Kathleen Kelly about the creation of their new work with Kamala Sankaram, Interstate. They co-wrote them libretto and performed in the filmed work about a women who writes her former friend after she’s been sent to prison. Interstate: https://mnopera.org/season/2021-2022/interstate/ Jennifer Cresswell: https://mnopera.org/biography/jennifer-cresswell/ Kathleen Kelly:...


Max Hoehn and Opera21

Keturah speaks with British Swiss director, translator, and librettist, Max Hoehn, about the development of his new opera laboratory: Opera21, and the state of new opera in Europe. Max Hoehn: https://www.maxhoehn.com/ Opera21: https://www.opera-21.org/about/


Marella Martin Koch and the Genesis of Dolores

Keturah speaks with librettist, playwright, and director, Marella Martin Koch, who recently won the inaugural West Edge Opera Aperture commission, alongside her writing partner, composer Nicolas Lell Benavides. Their work, DOLORES, about worker’s rights fighter, Dolores Huerta, will hopefully have its debut at West Edge in 2023. They discuss the genesis and creation of this opera, as well as her time at the American Opera Initiative at the Kennedy Center, and her deep dive into Jane Austen’s...


The Decameron Opera Coalition and the “Heroes” Project

Keturah speaks with librettists: Matt Boresi, Bilal Dardai, Briana Hunter, and Steve Wallace about the currently streaming “Heroes” with the Decameron Opera Coalition. All, saving Matt, are new librettists, and we talk about the inspiration behind their pieces as well as what it was like to write in this medium. Decameron Opera Coalition: https://www.decameronoperacoalition.org/ Hilliard and Boresi: https://www.hilliardandboresi.com/#home-section Bilal Dardai:...


Taura Stinson and The Meaning Beyond The Rhyme

Keturah speaks with composer and lyricist, Taura Stinson, about her first foray into opera with “On The Edge,” composed by Laura Karpman for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis last season. They also discuss Taura’s life as a songwriter for the film industry, and how to make opera more open and welcoming to everyone. Taura Stinson: http://www.taurastinson.com/about/ Laura Karpman: http://www.laurakarpman.com/about


Rinde Eckert and Changing Up the Wallpaper

Keturah speaks with multi-faceted composer, librettist, and performer, Rinde Eckert. They discuss the state of opera today, how much it’s changed (or hasn’t), and Rinde’s recent works as a librettist: Moon Tea with Steven Mackey for OTSL, and The Aging Magician with Paola Prestini with Beth Morrison Projects. Rinde Eckert: https://www.rindeeckert.com/ Steven Mackey: https://stevenmackey.com/ Paola Prestini: https://www.paolaprestini.com/ Margaret Jenkins Dance Company:...


Deborah Burton and the Librettists of Puccini

Keturah interviews music theorist and Puccini expert, Deborah Burton, about the many librettists Puccini worked with throughout his career, with special emphasis on Giacosa and Illica, as well as Fontana, who started it all with Edgar, a disaster that taught Puccini to be very involved with how his libretti were crafted. Librettists mentioned: Ferdinando Fontana Giuseppe Giacosa Luigi Illica Ruggero Leoncavallo Marco Praga Domenico Oliva Giulio Ricordi Guelfo Civinini Giuseppe...


Douglas Kearney and Poetry Both Seen and Heard

Keturah interviews Douglas Kearney, a renowned poet and librettist who is the inaugural recipient of the Campbell Libretto Prize through Opera America. They talk about his work with Yuval Sharon and The Industry in LA, his work as a poet, and his philosophy of writing performative text. Douglas Kearney: https://www.douglaskearney.com/ Anne LeBaron: https://www.annelebaron.com/ The Industry LA:


Tony Asaro and The Path To Opera

Keturah speaks with Bay Area librettist and composer, Tony Asaro, about his work in musical theater, how he found opera, and the two operas he’s currently working on: Zheng, and The Halloween Tree. Tony Asaro: https://www.altnyc.org/tony-asaro Theo Popov: http://www.theopopov.com/ Shinji Eshima: https://sfopera.com/about-us/people/bios/orchestra/shinji-eshima/ Zheng: https://www.zhengopera.com/ The Halloween Tree: https://www.altnyc.org/operas/the-halloween-tree


Amanda Quaid and Adapting The Extinctionist

Keturah talks to playwright, librettist, and actor, Amanda Quaid about her left turn into writing opera libretti, and her new adaptation for Heartbeat Opera, The Extinctionist with Daniel Schlosberg. Amanda Quaid: http://www.amandaquaid.com/ Daniel Schlosberg: https://danschlosberg.com/ The Extinctionist: https://www.heartbeatopera.org/extinctionist


Karen Chilton and the Kaleidoscopic Career

Keturah speaks with librettist, playwright, and actor, Karen Chilton, about her collaboration with Damien Sneed on THE TONGUE AND THE LASH at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for this year’s NEW WORKS, BOLD VOICES LAB. Karen Chilton - https://www.karenchilton.com/bio Damien Sneed - https://www.damiensneed.com/ Opera Theatre of Saint Louis - https://opera-stl.org/nwbv-lab


Nicolas Reveles and Writing Trauma

Keturah interviews composer and librettist, Nicolas Reveles, about some of his past work, as well as several upcoming pieces. They end up talking about the physicality of trauma, a theme that shows up in a number of his pieces. A recent interview with Nic in his role as opera educator: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/classical-music/story/2020-05-23/nicolas-reveles-on-discovering-and-rediscovering-the-magic-of-opera


Rachel J. Peters asks “Where Are the Women?”

In this first episode of Season 3, Keturah interviews composer and librettist, Rachel J. Peters. They discuss a number of her works, including the recently premiered STAGGERWING, composed by Lisa DeSpain, and MEN I’M NOT MARRIED TO, which will premiere soon at Cleveland Opera Theater. Rachel talks about always looking for the women in any given topic, which informs much of her...


Crystal Manich, Ned Canty, Joseph Mechavich, and The Sounds That Move Us

In the final episode of the season, Keturah speaks with director, Crystal Manich, director and General Director of Opera Memphis, Ned Canty, and conductor, Joseph Mechavich, about three texts that move them in opera. The conversation goes from the specific text to why sounds can be so moving, to how we approach text in our practice, and these three interviews sit beautifully as a trio in thought and structure. Texts discussed are Colautti’s Adriana LeCouvreur, Romani’s The Elixir of Love,...


Aliana de la Guardia and Geovonday Jones discuss Guerilla Opera’s Libretto Writing Workshop

This episode, nearly a year from the first episode highlighting Guerilla Opera’s first Libretto Writing Workshop with Brenda Huggins, is again looking at the virtual workshops that Guerilla Opera is offering this season. The first interview is with Aliana de la Guardia (https://www.alianadelaguardia.com/), who is the artistic director of Guerilla Opera in Boston, and who talks about the company’s mission, as well as the virtual workshops being offered. We spend a particular amount of time...


Talking Diction with Stefano de Peppo and Kathryn LaBouff

In this episode, Keturah speaks with bass-baritone and Italian diction coach, Stefano de Peppo, as well as English diction coach, Kathryn LaBouff, about the importance of good diction. Stefano discusses his journey from Milan to the United States, and how he started helping his colleagues with Italian diction, which has turned into a business. He also talks about the use of dialects in Italian, and how good diction can help carry emotions across to the audience, even if they don’t speak...


Jacqueline Goldfinger and Alexandra Deshorties

Keturah begins the podcast with an interview with soprano, Alexandra Deshorties. They start discussing Donizetti’s Roberto Devereaux, and move into Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine, using each libretto to discuss how the text tells the story, and how to work within the confines of the music to find an appropriate interpretation of the text. Alexandra is frustrated with the idea of sounding “pretty” or “cute,” and wants the text to ring true in all of its beauty and ugliness. She is convinced that...