About Us and Our Mission



Ardea Arts is an incubator of groundbreaking, new opera-works redefining American Opera within a contemporary vernacular framework. Our mission is to make the opera experience accessible but challenging to widely diverse audiences of all ages. New work is made by exciting, unexpected artists who speak to these audiences through the medium of opera. Opera bursts forth with our own cultures and resonates with our own languages—enchanting, challenging, and inspiring multi-generational audiences, and makes us laugh, cry, and acknowledge who we are. These are the same ideas that inspired the beginnings of opera back in 1590, and they are what we strive to re-capture in these new works by the artists of today.

Ardea Arts’ mission is to:

  • Create and produce provocative new works of music-theater and opera to entertain, challenge, and inspire today’s diverse global community, uplift the human spirit, and encourage new ways of seeing our world.

  • Make opera relevant to our 21st century world, our nation, and our communities.

We do this by:

  • Engaging diverse audiences & new generations in the process and the performance of the opera.

  • Partnering with producers and community organizations to extend our reach both within and far outside the walls of the opera house.

Opera was first created as a theatrical form for the people. Our mission is to help keep it that way.

Ardea Arts and its founding director Grethe Barrett Holby have been tackling difficult issues through the arts since 2006—spearheading, commissioning, developing, and producing opera and music-theater works for youth, family, and under-served audiences. To this end, we involve communities to the greatest extent possible in the process and performance of the work. We engage composers, writers, designers, singers, musicians, tech crew, and digital artists to collaborate on these new works. Ardea Arts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit / charitable organization.

Ardea Arts has collaborated with extraordinary artists unexpected in the field of family entertainment. Performances have been co-produced with American Opera Projects, Clark Studio Theater, Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, TADA! Children’s Theater, Playfest/Orlando Shakespeare Theater (FL), Central Park Zoo, Infinity Music Hall, ISPCA, WNYC’s The Greene Space, FI:AF, and The Parrish Art Museum. We have also conducted workshops at Atlantic Center for the Arts, American Opera Projects, Ardea Arts Studio, Montclair State University (NJ), various New York City area schools, and our newest development partner—University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.


Family Opera Initiative (FOI) is a program established by producer, stage director, choreographer, and dramaturge Grethe Barrett Holby at American Opera Projects in 1995 to bring to a widely diverse audience the opera experience in the form of new, original American “opera-musicals” that are accessible but challenging, made by exciting, unexpected artists, who speak to this audience through the artistic media of opera: music, words, theater, and visuals, with subject matter that matters. creating new, high-quality opera-theater works for diverse and multi-generational audiences. It is now a major program of Ardea Arts.

Family Opera Initiative’s mission is to: 

  • Bring unexpected artists together to create original American operas with artistic integrity and depth, that will connect to multigenerational and non-standard audiences, especially kids and teens.

  • Reach, engage, and entertain a public not ordinarily predisposed to the notion of “opera.”

  • Explode the notion that opera is old-fashioned, a “museum,” or an art form for the intelligentsia.

  • Make indigenous American opera, with American themes, language, and music—a modern day American singspiel—the “opera-musical.”

  • Hold this work to a benchmark that will also engage and challenge seasoned opera and theater audiences.

  • Present these “opera-musicals” both inside traditional theaters and opera houses, and outside in the community—in non-standard spaces, places, and environments.

  • Engage the community in the process and the performance of the piece to the greatest extent possible.

FOI’s repertory consists of Flurry Tale (1999), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2001), Fireworks! (2002), Animal Tales (2005), and CAT (2010). FOI has also premiered Glen Roven’s Goodnight Moon & Plums—Five Songs for Kids during FOI’s summer performances in Southampton, NY; David Wolfson’s 10-minute gem Maya’s Ark, based on a true story from inner-city Newark, NJ; and a choreographed staged version of Babar, The Little Elephant, co-presented with the French Institute Alliance Française NYC (FI:AF).