National Endowment for the Arts Grant Supports New Opera at UCLA


A new opera by an alumna of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music – world premiering at UCLA’s Little Theater this month – has received substantial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Hailed by Opera News as “haunting and beautiful,” Polymnia tells the story of a Greek woman whose family is expelled from their home by Ottoman soldiers. 

“We are honored to be one of a handful of institutions to receive support from the NEA for an operatic production,” said Peter Kazaras, director of Opera UCLA. “As a descendant of Greeks from Asia Minor, this story resonates with me personally.”

The opera’s Saturday night premiere is already sold out. A second performance has been added for Sunday, January 22, and tickets are still available for purchase.

Polymnia was written by Theodosia Roussos, School of Music alumna. Drawing on four generations of her family’s private writings and oral histories, Polymnia tells the story of Roussos’s grandmother Polymnia Athanasiadis Pappas and her family’s expulsion from their village in Asia Minor. An ambitious work musically, Polymnia incorporates elements of Greek and Byzantine folk music into its portrayal of one woman’s response to the trauma of war and dislocation.

Polymnia is the story of how my family survived the ethnic cleansing of the Greeks in the early 20th century,” said Roussos. “It is a story that will resonate with people the world over who share similar histories.” 

“It has been exciting to work with Theodosia Roussos on the dramaturgy,” said Kazaras. “As the director of Opera UCLA and as someone who has known and appreciated Theodosia since she was a music undergraduate here, the NEA’s recognizing this work has been profoundly gratifying.”

Peter Kazaras is a respondent for book talk called Possessed Voices Aural Remains from Modernist Hebrew Theater sponsored by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience
Peter Kazaa’s, director of Opera UCLA

Polymnia, which also has also been supported by the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and the Stravos Niarchos Foundation, is presented by the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture.



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