Proving Up

World Premiere, New Production
Washington National Opera, 2018


Composer: Missy Mazzoli
Librettist: Royce Vavrek
Director: Alison Moritz
Conductor: Christopher Rountree
Costume Design: Lynley Saunders
Lighting Design: AJ Guban
Photo Credit: Scott Suchmann


“mysterious, mesmerizing, startling in moments, and highly atmospheric.” (DC Theatre Scene)

“Alison Moritz is a sharp, confident director and tackled this opera with the bold decision to ground the atmospheric music with lots of stage business, constantly changing the stage pictures. (DC Theatre Scene)

“As powerful as it is bleak, it cannot leave audiences cold:” (Washington Post)

“The production, under the astute guidance of director Alison Moritz, made imaginative use of a minimally appointed stage enhanced by A.J. Guban’s sensitive lighting.” (Opera News)

Alison Moritz directed an economical production that made use of stark lighting (designed by A.J. Guban)… This visual dryness was an incisive counterpart to the dramatically taut world created by Mazzoli’s score and Vavrek’s libretto.” (Washington Classical Review)

“the most convincing case I have ever seen for modern American opera;” (Parterre)

Alison Moritz provided naturalistic direction that left the enigmatic opera intact enough to be comprehensible but abstract enough so as to provoke thought. (Parterre)


A stark and eerie look at the cost of the American dream, PROVING UP tells the story of a family of Nebraskan settlers hoping to “prove up” and claim their land as part of the Homestead Act.

Throughout the process the designers, cast, and I pushed to keep this historic tale intimate and modern. The inspiring events may have happened in the past, but the opera’s message is for today.

A string curtain lit from one side creates the illusion of a shifting field of wheat. A simple chair becomes a younger son’s beloved horse. The trousseau trunk of a young Western bride turns into the family’s grave…

As with all good horror stories, what we imagine may be scarier than reality.