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Opera for All Voices (OFAV) began as a consortium of North American opera companies committed to co-commissioning and co-producing new operatic works for audiences of all ages that bear the same artistic integrity and depth of storytelling as main stage works. Over several years it has grown in its mission to tell "stories of our time." Follow host Andrea Fellows Fineberg from The Santa Fe Opera and OFAV collaborators and stakeholders as we explore the process, the context, and the story of commissioning and producing new operas in America.

Feb 10, 2021

A hummingbird, a beatboxer, and a sweet potato walk into a theatre… 

We should probably mention the bees, the dog, the squirrel, the baby pigeons, and a few woodpeckers, too. These are some of the creatures that inhabit the magical garden community of Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun, and in 2019, they lit up the stage performing opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

But a menagerie as complex and unpredictable as this one didn’t just arrive fully formed, ready for its world premiere. Instead, Opera for All Voices’ first-ever premiere required years of lead time, months of prep work, and several changes to its artistic team. 

Key Change host Andrea Fellows Fineberg fires up the time machine once again to travel behind the scenes with members of the Sweet Potato... creative crew. Andrea asks them about the artistic challenges inherent to wrangling myriad talents and viewpoints into a cohesive staged performance. Their answers reveal a shared vision that binds these creative individuals to the OFAV mission, the production, and each other.

Librettist Leslie Dunton Downer discusses the risk and ultimate reward of relinquishing control to the interpretive artists on stage. Dramaturg Cori Ellison and collaborator Ruth Nott recall decisions that helped shape the show’s production team. Director John de los Santos and costume designer Ashley Soliman trade thoughts on the role ambiguity played in their designs, while offering glimpses into their working relationship. 

And it’s composer Augusta Read Thomas who offers an observation that best captures Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun’s collaborative and connective genius. In an age of so much uncertainty, the production is a reminder that anything is still possible. “It’s a joyful piece. I think everybody feels it, every single character, and it jumps off the stage.”


Season 1, Episode 3 “Beatboxing and Opera: a love story” - interview with Nicole Paris and Augusta Read Thomas

Season 2, Episode 1 “Press Play” - Sweet Potato’s Augusta Read Thomas and Leslie Dunton Downer on story and score development on the eve of the Chicago workshop


Key Change is a production of The Santa Fe Opera in collaboration with Opera for All Voices.

Hosted by Andrea Fellows Fineberg

Featuring Cori Ellison, Ruth Nott, Stage Director: John de los Santos, Costume Designer: Ashley Soliman, Librettist: Leslie Dunton Downer, Composer: Augusta Read Thomas 

Produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios

Audio Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe

Theme music by Rene Orth with Corrie Stallings, mezzo-soprano, and Joe Becktell, cello.

Cover art by David Tousley

Additional music in this episode composed and provided by Augusta Read Thomas, with permission from Nimbus Records.

This podcast is made possible due to the generous funding from the Melville Hankins Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.  

To learn more about Opera for All Voices, visit us at