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Lisa DeSpain

Lisa DeSpain

  • She/Her
  • Biography

    LISA DESPAIN is the winner of the 2020 Zepick Modern Opera Commission, a 2020 NEA Challenge America Award, and a 2018 OPERA America Discovery Grant. She was a 2005-2006 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow with lyricist Kristen Anderson-Lopez. THAT HELL-BOUND TRAIN was awarded a 2022 Rhinebeck Writer's Retreat.

    Selected works:
    THAT HELL-BOUND TRAIN, is a deal-with-the-devil/blues opera with libretto by David Simpatico (based on a short story by Robert Bloch - PSYCHO.) After agreeing to the Faustian bargain, "one wish in exchange for your soul," Martin attempts to outsmart The Conductor by asking for the power to stop time and live forever at a perfect moment of happiness.

    THE NIGHTINGALE: On Site Opera/Brookfield Arts.
    Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale "The Nightingale" with libretto by Melisa Tian. Premieres NYC 2023.

    STAGGERWING, about the historic win by female pilots in the 1936 Bendix Trophy Air Race. Premiered July 2021 (Opera Kansas) at the Kansas Aviation Museum. (Libretto by Rachel J. Peters) Published by E.C. Schirmer.

    MEN I'M NOT MARRIED TO, based on a short story by Dorothy Parker - a comic opera about what women really say when they're hiding out in the bathroom. Commissioned by Baldwin Wallace Conservatory/Cleveland Opera Theatre. (Libretto by Rachel J. Peters)

    LIKE I CARE!, (Tale of a Middle School Scrooge) developed via Zoom with the Ira Jones Middle School during the 2020-2021 pandemic year, premieres in Fall 2021. (Lyrics by Sara Wordsworth)

    Lisa is the vocal arranger of Broadway hits for the education market; HAMILTON, IN THE HEIGHTS, NEXT TO NORMAL, ONCE, GREEN DAY: AMERICAN IDIOT, and more. (Alfred Publications)

    Lisa is a Professor at CUNY (LaGuardia Community College) and clinician presenting masterclasses with Utah Opera, University of North Texas, Young Women's Composer Camp, and University of Utah on composing for the opera/musical theatre stage.

    Other awards include: Copland House Fellow, ASCAP Commission Honoring the Duke Ellington Centennial, Barlow Endowment Commission, and the ASCAP Film Composers Workshop.

    She ran away and joined the circus...twice.

    Professional Experience

    • Broadway
    • Off Broadway
    • Regional
    • Concerts/Cabaret
    • Education
    • Tours


    • NYC/Tri-State Area
    • Denver/West

    Interested in touring?

    • No

    Maestra Expertise

    • Theatrical Composer (Music and Lyrics)
    • Theatrical Composer (Music only)
    • Music Director/Conductor (Pianist)
    • Vocal Director and/or Choral Prep
    • Vocal Arranger
    • Dance Arranger
    • Incidental Music Composer/Arranger

    Primary Instruments

    • Piano
    • Voice


    • Finale
    • Logic


    • ASCAP