The cover of The Opera Issue of The Dramatist
Librettists on Libretti

The following transcript is from the DG Opera Committee librettists webinar, August 10, 2021, moderated by Deborah Brevoort with Mark Campbell, Stephanie Fleischmann, David Henry Hwang, E.M. Lewis, and Sandra Seaton and has been edited for print.

photo of laptop, notebooks, pen, and coffee for the Librettists on Libretti roundtable

DEBORAH BREVOORT:  Today is a bit of a historical event. It’s the first ever webinar about opera sponsored by the Dramatists Guild, so thank you to the Guild for this. Today’s panel is composed entirely of librettists. To kick off our discussion, let me ask our panelists: why do you write opera? Sandra, what attracts you to the form?

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David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang

’s work includes M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Aida, Flower Drum Song, and Soft Power. Tony Award (three nominations), three OBIE Awards, Grammy Award (two nominations), three-time Pulitzer finalist. Opera libretti include five shows with Philip Glass, Ainadamar with Osvaldo Golijov, and the upcoming M. Butterfly opera with Huang Ruo.


is an award-winning playwright and opera librettist whose work has been produced around the world. Opera libretti include Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant (music by Evan Meier), and Town Hall (music by Theo Popov). Lewis is a member of OPERA America and the Dramatists Guild. She is currently the Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Artists Repertory Theater. She lives and writes on her family’s farm in Oregon.

Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell

s Pulitzer and Grammy Award-winning work includes 39 opera librettos, lyrics for seven musicals, and text for six song cycles and three oratorios. He recently created the first prize in the history of opera designated specifically for opera librettists: the Campbell Opera Librettist Prize.

Sandra Seaton
Sandra Seaton

is a playwright and librettist. Her recent works include the opera Night Trip and The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson (starring Denyce Graves), both with composer Carlos Simon; Call Me By My Name, her performance piece about Henrietta Lacks; and Dreamland: Tulsa 1921her choral work about the Tulsa Race Massacre with composer Marques L.A. Garret.


’s opera libretti include Poppaea (with Michael Hersch), In a Grove (with Chris Cerrone), Volcano, The Still Life of Emily Dickinson (with Anna Clyne), The Pigeon Keeper (with David Hanlon), The Other City (with Jeremy Howard Beck) and Dido (with Melinda Wagner). Previous works: The Long Walk (Beck), After the Storm (Hanlon), The Property (Marhulets).