WE make new operas.

Rhymes With Opera is a New York-based ensemble of performers and composers that expands the repertory of contemporary opera by commissioning, developing and staging new chamber works.

Robert Maril and Bonnie Lander in Erik Spangler's  Cantata For A Loop Trail  (2014)

Robert Maril and Bonnie Lander in Erik Spangler's Cantata For A Loop Trail (2014)

Founded in 2007, Rhymes With Opera includes founding company members Ruby Fulton (composer); Elisabeth Halliday (soprano); George Lam (composer); Bonnie Lander (soprano); and Robert Maril (baritone). During the 2012-2013 season, Rhymes With Opera expanded to include a house band, the Rhymes With Orchestra, a chamber ensemble comprised of some of this generation’s most exciting contemporary instrumentalists. With the addition of the RWOrchestra, RWO has become a self-contained contemporary opera machine, commissioning and producing works that can be performed whole-cloth by the company.

Since 2007, RWO has commissioned more than 17 new operas, ranging from one-minute “signature” pieces to evening-length productions. New operas commissioned and produced by RWO include Travis Sullivan’s Three Modern Pieces, Thomas Limbert’s Numbers / Dates, Jenny Olivia Johnson’s Book of Gazes, Kathleen Bader’s Leads, Douglas Buchanan’s Goblin Market, David Smooke’s Criminal Element, Adam Matlock’s Red Giant, and Erik Spangler’s Cantata For A Loop Trail, an outdoor hiking opera set in Gwynn Falls Leakin Park in Baltimore and Inwood Hill Park in New York City.

RWO has performed in Baltimore venues including Area 405, the 2640 Space, the City Arts Gallery and the Wind-Up Space, and in NYC venues including Roulette, the Cornelia Street Café, the National Opera Center, JACK, and the City University of New York. Since 2014 , RWO has regularly presented our mainstage productions in the intimate 124 Bank Street Theatre in New York City.

Rhymes With Opera’s 2019-20 season is supported in part by a grant from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.



The Rhymes With Opera Orchestra

Sarah Washburn, violin
Gregory Williams, viola
Jennifer Girone-Virgilio, cello
Michael Compitello, percussion (emeritus)
Sidney Boquiren, piano / keyboard
Zach Herchen, saxophone

Board of Directors

Joe Barnes, President
John Ohle, Vice President
Scott Schneider, Treasurer
Robert Maril, Secretary
Benjamin Crawford
Ruby Fulton
Elisabeth Halliday
George Lam
Bonnie Lander


John Luther Adams
David Bennett
Phyllis Bryn-Julson
Anthony Roth Costanzo
Michael Gordon
Neal Goren
David Lang
David T. Little
Kevin Puts
Christopher Theofanidis
Carol Wincenc

Rhymes With Opera is a proud member of the New York Opera Alliance and Opera America.

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Frequently asked questions


  • What kind of new works do we commission and perform?  
    Our focus is on commissioning and staging new compositions by emerging and established composers. Our productions could be called “chamber opera,” but we hope to add to the opera repertory while keeping an open vision to what "opera" means.  

  • What do you mean by ensemble?
    Our founders include both composers and singers. Our idea is to commission works specifically for our ensemble of performers, and we invite guest artists to join the ensemble as needed. This gives us a unique opportunity for intimate collaboration between composers and performers: the singers have the chance to perform a work tailored to their talents; the composer similarly has the chance to hear their work performed and fully realized with the support of an opera ensemble. In addition to our singers, RWO also has an ensemble of instrumental musicians. We nickname them, “Rhymes With Orchestra.”

  • How do you do all this? What are your programs like?
    We have a variety of events and programs: 

    • We perform a fully-staged, new commission each season. Sometimes two!

    • We sponsor and collaborate in other events as well.  We host our annual RWO Salon which includes short presentations from several different companies in NYC - this is usually an informal pot-luck with music, booze, and food. We also participate in various events around NYC like the New Music Bake Sale or the NYOA Opera Alliance's OperaFest showcase. Sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date!

    • Educational programs - we sponsor a program called “Pocket Opera Workshop” which is a fee-based, collaboration program pairing composers and singers, usually taking place in the summer. 

  • Why “Rhymes” With Opera?  
    Rhymes implies that we are looking outside the box of the ways 'OPERA' has traditionally been defined.  We work in the idiom of opera, but we hope to keep it contemporary, collaborative, and innovative. Examples:

    • We have performed pieces that could be called a staged, solo-vocal work.  Is this GRAND OPERA? No, but it rhymes with…

    • We produced a video opera.  We did an improv opera.  We want to push boundaries and know what is coming next.  We are game changers (It's official - it's in Opera News Magazine!)

    • We want to explore creative collaborations with musicians, composers, directors, dancers, ets.  Some of this might look very much like traditional opera, but we want to leave ourselves the space to explore.

  • How do you decide what to commission?  
    We have a very talented Artistic Leadership team that is very well connected to the modern music scene and based across the country.  We look for emerging talent and offer the opportunity to work with a dedicated ensemble to create new and inspiring new works that pushes us forward.  We are risk takers. 

  • How do I learn more?
    Well in addition to checking out this website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and join our mailing list (we don't email too often, we promise!). The best way to experience what we do though, is to come and see a performance! Check out our events page to see what's coming up next!