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The Atlanta Opera’s Veterans Program, Winner of Arts ATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement, Enters Third Season

The Atlanta Opera’s Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director, Tomer Zvulun, recalls that one of his first acts upon arriving at the company in 2013 was to establish a program focusing on the stories of soldiers. A veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces himself, Zvulun’s commitment to making The Atlanta Opera’s productions accessible to veterans eventually resulted in the innovative Veterans Program, which provides complimentary tickets to military servicemen and women and was recognized with Arts ATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement. This season the program will provide free tickets to over 2800 veterans and active military, and a reception celebrating the program and those who benefit from it is planned before the closing performance of La Cenerentola on the eve of Veterans Day, November 10. Further events connected to the program this season will be announced in the coming months, and a video discussing its history is available here.

The Veterans Program had its beginnings when Zvulun programmed David T. Little’s opera Soldier Songs, which was performed on Veterans Day in 2015. With help from The Home Depot Foundation, which sponsors the program to this day, 750 tickets were donated to veterans and active military personnel during the run of the opera. Each performance was also followed by a panel discussion in which veterans talked about their experiences. The following Veterans Day The Opera presented the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, telling the story of the 1914 Christmas truce during World War I, and more than 700 current and former members of the armed forces attended the performance. After the success of those productions, in 2017 The Opera and The Home Depot Foundation decided to make the program more permanent, providing free tickets to all active-duty and military families for any Atlanta Opera mainstage production at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. To date, over 7,000 tickets have been donated through the Veterans Program.

Zvulun explains:

“What’s incredible about the opera is that it tells stories, universal stories about human beings, and the experience of being in a war is kind of a universal story. And I think what is in common for every experience of a soldier in the army, regardless of where they are and what time period they are in, is the fear of not seeing the ones they love again. The fear of not seeing their parents or their wives or their children…it’s what makes us human beings, and it’s what connects the audience to the stories that we tell.”

About the opportunity to serve the veterans’ community, he adds: “I think we’re all extremely humbled and grateful for that incredible honor.”

Next spring, The Opera presents another military-themed opera, Glory Denied, by composer and librettist Tom Cipullo, hailed by the American Academy of Art and Letters for music that displays “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality,” and winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship. The opera tells the story of Jim Thompson, the longest-held American prisoner of war in history, and stars Michael Mayes, who returns to TAO after his acclaimed performance as Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking last season. Opera News marveled: “The role fits Mayes’s instrument and comportment like a glove: the opera could have been written for him, and his interpretation of the character is definitive.”

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company Atlanta deserves, with a vision to reimagine opera. Founded in 1979, The Atlanta Opera celebrates its 40th anniversary in the 2019-20 season. The company works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form. Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera recently expanded its annual season from three to four mainstage productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company was honored at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Best of 2015” awards, was nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award, and won ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement. The 2019 honor was awarded in recognition of the company’s successful Veterans Program, which was created in partnership with the Home Depot Foundation. The Atlanta Opera was also featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun presented a TEDx Talk at Emory University on “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.” For more information, visit

High-resolution promotional photos may be downloaded here.


The Atlanta Opera: Glory Denied

May 21-24
Tom Cipullo: Glory Denied
Based on the book by Tom Philpott
Col. Jim Thompson: Michael Mayes

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© 21C Media Group, September 2019

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