Washington National Opera's laudable commissioning project, American Opera Initiative, will kick off in the fall with the premiere of three 20-minute works, followed in summer 2013 by an hour-long piece.

All of the operas deal with American characters and subject matter; all will be performed in English.

The premiere trio will take place on Nov. 19 at the Kennedy Center. "The Game of Hearts," with music by Douglas Pew and libretto by Dara Weinberg, is described as "a ...

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comedic opera about a group of widows in a Seattle nursing home."

"Part of the Act," composed by Liam Wade to a libretto by John Grimmett, is also comic, dealing with a backstage battle of actresses in a New York vaudeville house in 1924.

And "Charon," by Scott Perkins (composer) and Nat Cassidy (librettist), offers "an allegorical tale of the ferryman of the River Styx and the cross-section of American characters he transports from the land of living to the world beyond."

The hour-long opera, to be unveiled in June 2013, is "The Tao of Muhammad Ali (A Ghost Story)" by composer and Baltimore School for the Arts alum D.J. Sparr and librettist Davis Miller. The story involves a reporter's encounter with the boxing great.

PHOTO OF D.J. SPARR COURTESY OF DJSPARR.COM

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