Royce Vavrek

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Royce Vavrek
Vavrek after the premiere of Proving Up, 2018
EducationConcordia University (BFA)
New York University (MFA)
Occupation(s)librettist, bookwriter, lyricist, filmmaker
Years active2002–present
Notable workDog Days, 27, Breaking the Waves, JFK, Angel's Bone

Royce Vavrek is a Canadian-born Brooklyn-based librettist, playwright, dance scenarist, musical theatre writer and filmmaker known for his collaborations with composers David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Mikael Karlsson, Ricky Ian Gordon, Paola Prestini and Du Yun, soprano Lauren Worsham, producers Beth Morrison and Lawrence Edelson, and conductors Steven Osgood, Julian Wachner and Alan Pierson.

He has been called "the indie Hofmannsthal," a "Metastasio of the downtown opera scene," "an exemplary creator of operatic prose," and "one of the most celebrated and sought after librettists in the world."[1][2][3][4]

His opera Angel's Bone with composer Du Yun was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music.[5]

Life and work[edit]

Born in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, Vavrek studied piano and musical composition in high school and also sang in a chorus, but was even more drawn to writing for theatre, writing some 17 plays at that time, and filmmaking.[6] But following an undergraduate degree in filmmaking from Concordia University and a master's from New York University in musical theater writing,[7] he enrolled in the American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program which established his career as an opera librettist.[6]

His work has been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Norwegian National Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Glimmerglass Opera, Tapestry Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Omaha, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, The Kitchen, Alarm Will Sound, Opera America, American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, among others. His recent commissions include operas for the Royal Swedish Opera, La Monnaie, The Icelandic Opera, and the Prototype Festival. Vavrek's filmmaking credits include From Sky and Soil, which was created as part of the Corus Young Filmmakers Initiative for broadcast on the W Network, through a prize administered by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association.

Vavrek is openly gay.[8]

Artistic influences and comparisons[edit]

Vavrek has suggested that his work is heavily influenced by cinematic auteurs including Neil LaBute, Lars von Trier, Catherine Breillat, Wong Kar-Wai, Mike Leigh, Larry Clark, playwrights Martin McDonagh and Sam Shepard, novelists Richard Ford, Miriam Toews and Larry McMurtry and Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards.[9][10][11][12]

His libretti have been compared to the work of Alban Berg, Maya Angelou and Edward Albee.[13][14][15]

Opera libretti[edit]

Dance scenarios[edit]

  • Crypto (2019, Guillaume Coté choreographer, Mikael Karlsson composer)[39]
  • Evidence of it All (2021, Drew Jacoby choreographer, Mikael Karlsson composer, Rosamund Pike narrator)[40]

Musical theater book and lyrics[edit]

Oratorios, cantatas, and song cycles[edit]

Selected songs and concert works[edit]

  • Hybrid Dreams (Bunny Pony) (2007, Julia Meinwald, composer)[48]
  • Elena (2009, Matt Marks, composer)[49]
  • Red-Thread Smirk (2010, Matt Marks, composer)[50]
  • I [XX] (2011, Matt Marks, composer)[51]
  • A Song for Wade (This is Not That Song) (2011, Matt Marks, composer)[52]
  • 1882 Songs (2011, Mark Baechle, composer)[53]
  • Last Nightfall (2011, David T. Little, composer)[54]
  • Canvas (2012, Matt Mehlan, composer)[55]
  • archaeology (2012, David T. Little, composer)[56]
  • Bluetooth Islands (2012, Matt Marks, composer)[57]
  • A Mural (2012, Aaron Gervais, composer)[58]
  • Alien Summers (2012, Aaron Roche, composer)[59]
  • Monkey Cowboys (2012, Rachel Peters, composer)[60]
  • Violations (2013, Hannah Lash, composer)[61]
  • Strip Mall (2013, Matt Marks, composer)[62]
  • Penance (2013, Mikael Karlsson, composer)[63]
  • The Librettist as a Boy (2013, Marie Incontrera, composer)[63]
  • Brother (2013, Jude Vaclavik, composer)[64]
  • E---- (2014, Jeff Myers, composer)[65]
  • Union (2014, Paola Prestini, composer)[66]
  • Knoxville: Summer of 2015 (2015, Ellen Reid, composer; a musical sequel to Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915)[67]


  • Sacrifice (2003)
  • Good Woman (2004)
  • From Sky and Soil (2005)
  • I Will Not Be Sad Anymore (2005)
  • Pig and Bear (2008)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2017 Music Critics Association of North America Award[68] Best New Opera Breaking the Waves Won
2019 Music Critics Association of North America Award[69] Best New Opera Proving Up Runner-up
2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards[70] Outstanding New Opera Jacqueline Nominated
2023 American Academy of Arts and Letters[71] Marc Blitzstein Memorial Award Won

The Coterie[edit]

With soprano Lauren Worsham, Vavrek is the co-founder and co-artistic director of downtown opera-theater company The Coterie. Through a series of concerts that often function as incubators for larger projects, the company has presented world premieres by many young operatic and musical theater composers including Rachel Peters, Jeff Myers, Kyle Jarrow, Paola Prestini, Cristian Amigo, Matt Marks, Mark Baechle, Christine Donkin, Joshua Schmidt, Julia Meinwald and Andrew Gerle. In December 2012, the company will premiere new works by Aaron Roche, Mel Marvin, Zach Redler, Aaron Gervais and Conrad Winslow alongside new projects from many returning contributors.[72] Among the many performers to lend their talents to the company are Tony Award-winner Chuck Cooper, Tony nominee Barbara Walsh, actress-singers Theresa McCarthy and Morgan James and actor-singers Greg Hildreth and Zachary James.[73][74]


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External links[edit]