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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

Finalists Announced for the 2023 Pellicciotti Opera Prize at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music

August 3, 2021

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music Announces Finalists for 2023 Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize 

Four finalists have been selected for the 2023 Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. 

The 2023 Pellicciotti selection committee is excited to announce the finalists for the Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize,” said Dr. Tim Sullivan, professor of music and co-facilitator of the committee. “Four finalists were chosen from a wonderfully diverse pool of submissions from around the world. 

The prize was founded by Dr. Gary C. Jaquay ’67 to honor his life partner Domenic J. Pellicciotti, an ardent fan of opera. The award seeks to encourage and acknowledge the creation of new opera works that explore themes related to social justice, diversity, equity and/or inclusion.  

The finalists will create a 15-minute excerpt of their proposed opera, which will be workshopped at The Crane School of Music in the spring of 2022. One winner will be awarded a $25,000 commission to complete the work, which will premiere in November 2023, in a production by the award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble and Orchestra. 

(From top left to lower right) Evan Mack, composer; Joshua McGuire, librettist; Timothy Takach, composer; Caitlin Vincent, librettist; Anthony R. Green, composer and librettist; Frank Pesci, composer; Andrew Altenbach, librettist.

The finalists for the 2023 Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize are: 

  • A Nearer Mother,” inspired by the life of Ruth Coker Burks, is the story of one woman’s quest to help early victims of the AIDS epidemic end their lives in peace. Ruth must negotiate hateful intolerance, an unpredictable virus, and her young child’s future to fulfill her calling. Evan Mack, composer; Joshua McGuire, librettist. 
  • Computing Venus provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of astronomer Maria Mitchell, one of the earliest champions of women in STEM. The opera follows Mitchell’s efforts to cultivate the next generation of women astronomers, even as growing movements threatened to close the world of science to women forever.  Timothy Takach, composer; Caitlin Vincent, librettist.  
  • I Was Shot by a Cop tells the stories of 18 people fatally shot by police officers in the USA. Each story is based on true events which should have sparked drastic policy change but did not. This new opera tells human stories, aiming to enact change through collective empathy. Anthony R. Green, composer and librettist.  
  • The Strangers In 19th-century New Orleans, a police chief is assassinated. With little evidence, Sicilian immigrants are tried, acquitted, but then lynched by an angry mob directed by the city’s elite. Innuendo, politics and xenophobia serve as a backdrop to a parable of immigrants coming face to face with native pride. Frank Pesci, composer; Andrew Altenbach, librettist. 

Noted American dramaturg Cori Ellison will work with the composers and librettists chosen as finalists and with the 2023 prize winner(s) in developing their opera projects. A leading creative figure in the opera world, she has served as staff dramaturg at Santa Fe Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival and New York City Opera. Active in developing contemporary opera, she leads The Juilliard School's Opera Lab, teaches dramaturgy for American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program and has worked as dramaturg with numerous composers, librettists and commissioners, including Canadian Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Chicago Opera Theater.  

The selection panel for the 2023 Prize included:  

  • Tom Cipullo, award-winning composer and winner of the 2018 Pellicciotti Prize for Mayo  

  • Liesl Schoenberger Doty, assistant professor of violin 

  • Dr. Ivette Herryman Rodríguez, assistant professor of music theory and composition 

  • Dr. William L. Lake, assistant professor of band and special assistant to the dean for diversity, equity and inclusion strategic initiatives 

  • Dr. Tim Sullivan, professor and co-chair of the Department of Music Theory, History and Composition 

  • Darren Keith Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera 

  • Dr. Lonel Woods, dean emeritus and professor of voice at The Crane School of Music 

For more information about the Pellicciotti Prize, visit 

About the Crane Opera Ensemble:  

The award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble is a significant source for opera and music theatre in the North Country region of New York State. The ensemble provides exciting opportunities for students to experience all facets of opera performance and production through rehearsals, coachings and classes related to performance practices and production techniques. The ensemble’s productions have garnered awards from the National Opera Association (2018, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2003), The American Prize (2018, 2011), and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (2010).  

About The Crane School of Music: 

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution. For more information, please visit 

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Alexandra Jacobs Wilke 315-267-2918

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