Press Released: 01 Apr 2014

OPERA America Announces Recipients of Opera Grants for Female Composers: Discovery Grants

Eight composers awarded a total of $100,000

Discovery Grants identify, support and help advance the work of female opera composers

OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, is pleased to announce the first round of recipients of its new program: Opera Grants for Female Composers, made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. From among the 112 eligible applicants, an independent adjudication panel selected eight composers. The recipients have each been awarded $12,500 to support the development of their compositions listed below.

The recipients of the Opera Grants for Female Composers are:

  • Anna Clyne for As Sudden Shut
  • Michelle DiBucci for Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin (Death and the Painter)
  • Laura Kaminsky for As One
  • Kristin Kuster for Old Presque Isle
  • Anne LeBaron for Psyche & Delia
  • Fang Man for Golden Lily
  • Sheila Silver for A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Luna Pearl Woolf for THE PILLAR

See below for composer biographies and summaries of their operas.

OPERA America has awarded nearly $13 million over 25 years to Professional Company Members in support of new American operas. Fewer than 5 percent of the organization’s grants supporting repertoire development have been awarded to works by female composers. Opera Grants for Female Composers provide support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase diversity across the field.

Opera Grants for Female Composers is a two-year project, with a different focus each year. In this first year, Discovery Grants identify, support and help develop the work of female composers writing for the operatic medium, raising their visibility and promoting awareness of their compositions. In addition to financial assistance, grant recipients will be introduced to leaders in the field through a feature in Opera America Magazine, and at future New Works Forum meetings and annual conferences. Supported works will be considered for presentation as part of the New Works Forum in January 2015 and New Works Samplers at future annual conferences.

The second year of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program will focus on Commissioning Grants. These awards will help support the commissioning and production of works by talented women composing on the stages of OPERA America Professional Company Members. Details for this segment of the program will be announced later in 2014.

The independent adjudication panelists for the Discovery Grant cycle included vocal coach-consultant Susan Ashbaker, composer Douglas Cuomo, director Robin Guarino, composer David T. Little, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer and composer/librettist Gene Scheer.

“OPERA America has several programs designed to advance the careers of the most talented creative artists and we are delighted to introduce an initiative that supports female composers,” commented Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “We knew this program would lead to the discovery of composers who are new to us, but we were astonished and thrilled by the tremendous number of applicants. Opera is experiencing a period of intense creative intensity as demonstrated by the interest in this new program,” he continued

2014 Discovery Grant Recipients

Anna Clyne, composer
As Sudden Shut

London-born Anna Clyne is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music. Her music, described as “dazzlingly inventive” by Time Out New York, has been championed by such internationally renowned conductors as Riccardo Muti, Leonard Slatkin, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, with recent commissions from Carnegie Hall, the LA Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, London Sinfonietta, and Southbank Centre, among others. Recent works include Masquerade, an orchestral overture for the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms; Prince of Clouds, a double violin concerto for Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo; A Wonderful Day for the Bang on a Can All-Stars; See(k), an orchestral score for the Houston Ballet, and The Violin, a multimedia collaboration with artist Josh Dorman. Currently the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence, Clyne has received numerous accolades, including a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nomination for the 2014 Times Breakthrough Award. Her debut album, Blue Moth, was released on the Tzadik label in 2012. Upcoming releases include Night Ferry with the CSO and Riccardo Muti on Resound; Prince of Clouds featuring Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra on Cedille Records; and The Violin featuring violinists Cornelius Dufallo and Amy Kauffman on VIA. For more information, visit

As Sudden Shut weaves music, poetry, stop-motion animation and choreography with carefully constructed lighting and stagecraft to create a multisensory path into the wildly explosive imagination of Emily Dickinson. Devoured by the raw terror of the outside world, Emily is confined within her room wherein magical worlds are unleashed.

Michelle DiBucci, composer
Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin (Death and the Painter)
Based on the paintings and text by Charlotte Salomon, adapted by Michelle DiBucci

Michelle DiBucci is a composer for theatre, opera, dance and film and has created music for over 40 productions. Her compositions have been featured at theatres worldwide including Dr. Dante's Aveny in Copenhagen, Teatro Municpal in Lima, and The Dry Opera Company in São Paulo. She made her New York debut at age 23 under the baton of Maestro Lukas Foss and The Brooklyn Philharmonic. Commissions include the Lincoln Center Institute, Kronos Quartet, Beyond the Machine and Pilobolus. She has composed music for several feature films and the Emmy-Award-Winning TV series, Carrier. Her soundtrack for the film, Wendigo won the WNYC’s Annual New Sounds Listeners Poll. She is on the faculty at Juilliard teaching in both the music and drama divisions. DiBucci has several world premieres on the horizon. In July, a new work for Pilobolus, Lady and Gentlemen, will premiere at the Joyce Theater in New York. In November, the Next Wave Festival at BAM will give the NY premiere of Basetrack, a multimedia theatrical experience that tells the gripping story of the Marines in Afghanistan. In February 2015 her full-length Ballet-Opera, Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin will premiere at Musiktheater im Revier, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. For more information, visit

Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin (Death and the Painter) is a Ballet-Opera based on the multidimensional artwork, Leben? Oder Theater? by Charlotte Salomon, (1917-1943). Music by Michelle DiBucci, Images by Charlotte Salomon, Text by Charlotte Salomon adapted by Michelle DiBucci with Choreography by Bridget Breiner. World premiere on February 14, 2015 at Musiktheater Im Revier, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Bridget Breiner, Ballet Director; Michael Schulz, General Intendant.

Laura Kaminsky, composer
As One
Libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed

Laura Kaminsky is a composer with “an ear for the new and interesting” whose works are “colorful and harmonically sharp-edged” (The New York Times) and whose “musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike those of Shostakovich” (In Tune). Social and political themes are common in her work, as is an abiding respect for and connection to the natural world. American Record Guide asserts: “her music is full of fire as well as ice, written in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Aaron Copland Fund, Chamber Music America, American Music Center, USArtists International and CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, among others. She has received six ASCAP-Chamber Music America Awards for Adventurous Programming and the Polish Ministry of Culture National Heritage 2010 Chopin Award. She has been a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony and Millay Colony for the Arts. She is a professor at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College/SUNY. For more information, visit

As One, a 75-minute-long multi-media chamber opera, explores the revelatory, redemptive journey of a transgender individual wrestling with profound ontological issues. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf portray the protagonist, joined by Fry Street Quartet, with an original film.

Kristin Kuster, composer
Old Presque Isle
Libretto by Megan Levad

Composer Kristin Kuster “writes commandingly for the orchestra,” and her music “has an invitingly tart edge” (The New York Times). Her colorfully enthralling, lush and visceral compositions takes inspiration from architectural space, the weather and mythology. Her orchestral music “unquestionably demonstrates her expertise in crafting unique timbres” (Steve Smith, Night After Night). Coming and recent performances of her work include pieces written for the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, the Lisbon Summer Fest Chamber Choir, the 6ixWire Project and the multi-percussionist Joseph Gramley. Recent CD releases include Two Jades with violinist Xiang Gao and the University of Michigan Symphony Band, and “Breath Beneath” on the PRISM Saxophone Quartet’s New Dynamic Records CD Breath Beneath. Kuster’s music has received support from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Opera Projects, the Sons of Norway, American Composers Orchestra, the League of American Orchestras, Meet The Composer, the Jerome Foundation, the American Composers Forum, the National Flute Association and the Argosy Foundation. Born in 1973, Ms. Kuster grew up in Boulder, Colorado. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan, where she now serves as assistant professor of composition. For more information, visit

Old Presque Isle is a 75-minute opera written for female singer, six trumpets, two percussionists and men’s chorus, with a libretto by poet Megan Levad. It is believed that the Old Presque Isle lighthouse is haunted, and although the bulb was deactivated in 1979 it continues to shine today.

Anne LeBaron, composer
Psyche & Delia
Libretto by Gerd Stern and Edward Rosenfeld

Portrayed in The New Yorker as “an admired West Coast experimentalist, who is an innovative performer on the harp as well as an unusually inventive composer,” Anne LeBaron’s compositions embrace an exotic array of subjects. These range from the mysterious Singing Dunes of Kazakhstan, to probes into physical and cultural forms of extinction, to legendary figures such as Pope Joan, Eurydice, Marie Laveau and the American housewife. Her fifth opera, Crescent City, garnered rave reviews from the 2012 production in Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Times wrote, “She is fluent in grandly operatic manner and in the language of avant-garde…a perspective that is always changing, and always captivating.” Her compositions have earned numerous awards and prizes, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Alpert Award in the Arts, a Fulbright Full Fellowship, a Fromm Foundation commission, awards from the Rockefeller MAP Fund for two of her operas, Sucktion, and Crescent City, and a Los Angeles Cultural Exchange International Grant to the Republic of Kazakhstan for The Silent Steppe Cantata. Recordings of her music are available on Mode, New World Records, EAR-Rational, Innova, Music and Art, Quindecim, and Albany. LeBaron holds the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at CalArts. For more information, visit

Psyche & Delia charts the powerful historical ramifications — cultural, political and spiritual — set into motion by Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD in 1943. Scientific discoveries, unsolved murders, CIA classified experiments and festivals provide a panoramic setting for extraordinary meetings of minds, highlighting iconic figures such as Aldous Huxley, Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary.

Fang Man, composer
Golden Lily
Libretto by Jie Guo, based on the late sixteenth century Chinese anonymous novel Jin Ping Me

Hailed as “inventive and breathtaking” by The New York Times, Fang Man’s music has been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen, American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, National Orchestre de Lorraine (France), Minnesota Orchestra, Peabody Symphony Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Dolce Suono Ensemble and Music From China, among others. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Koussevitzky Foundation Commission, the National Endowment of Arts, Siemens Music Foundation commission, LA Philharmonic commission, Underwood/ACO commission, Toru Takemitsu Award (Japan), Dolce Suono Ensemble commission, PRISM Saxophone Quartet /Music From China commission, New Music USA commission, Bank of America commission, the Darmstadt Stipend Prize, 47th UWRF commission, Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship and Frank Huntington Beebe Fellowship, among others. She has been invited to Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Darmstadt (Germany), Centre Acanthes (France), Aspen, Gaudeamus (the Netherlands) and June in Buffalo. She was invited as a resident composer at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Aldeburgh Music (UK) and Civitella Ranieri Music Foundation (Italy). Man holds a doctorate from Cornell, where her primary teacher was Steven Stucky, and a computer music certificate from IRCAM. She is currently on the faculty at the University of South Carolina. For more information, visit

Golden Lily is an opera in three acts composed by Fang Man with a libretto by Guo Jie. It is based on the late sixteenth-century Chinese anonymous novel Jin Ping Mei, one of the greatest Chinese novels in history. The opera focuses on the novel’s female protagonist, Golden Lily (Jinlian), who is one of the most (in)famous femme fatales in Chinese literature.

Sheila Silver, composer
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Libretto by Stephen Kitsakos, based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner

Recipient of a 2013-14 Guggenheim Fellowship, Sheila Silver recently returned from six months in India where she studied Hindustani music, the heart of Afghan music, which she will incorporate into her new opera, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Throughout her career, Silver has had works commissioned and performed by numerous orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists internationally. Her most recent work, Beauty Intolerable (2013), a songbook based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, premiered in New York and the Hudson Valley last June. Developed with American Opera Projects and The Millay Society, the show included singers Risa Harman, Lauren Flanigan and Deanne Meek, with actresses Tyne Daly and Tandy Cronyn reciting Millay’s poetry. Winner of the 2007 Sackler Prize in Music Composition for Opera, she composed the chamber opera, The Wooden Sword, with librettist Stephen Kitsakos. In 2009 they collaborated on another opera, The White Rooster, for women’s vocal quartet, Tibetan bowls and percussion. Commissioned by the Smithsonian, it premiered in 2010 at the Sackler-Freer Galleries to celebrate the Tibetan exhibit, In the Realm of the Buddha. Silver’s first opera, The Thief of Love, hailed as “music of great beauty” by Howard Smith of Music and Vision, is available on DVD. For more information, visit

Based on the internationally best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns is set in war-torn contemporary Afghanistan. Featuring two Islamic heroines whose lives intersect as wives of one cruel man, it explores the bond between mothers and daughters and how love and sacrifice can transcend brutality.

Luna Pearl Woolf, composer
Libretto by David Van Taylor, based on The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, by Diana B. Henriques

Called “blazingly ardent and softly haunting” by The New York Times, the music of composer Luna Pearl Woolf offers penetrating insight into its subjects, creating acoustic sound worlds that evoke and inspire. Her innovative collaborations with authors, filmmakers, dancers and musicians tell original stories or respond to history and current events. Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons narrates Woolf’s Angel Heart, with a new story by best-selling children’s author Cornelia Funke. The album Angel Heart, a music storybook (Oxingale Records), won a GRAMMY for producer David Frost. Woolf has been commissioned and performed by singers Frederica von Stade, Sanford Sylvan, Daniel Taylor and Lisa Delan, pianist Christopher O’Riley, cellist Matt Haimovitz and Uccello, Trinity Wall Street Choir and the Russian National Orchestra, among others. Her music has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and From the Top, BBC’s The World, and in Opera News, Strings Magazine, The New York Times and the Boston Globe. For more information, visit

A charming, Machiavellian larcenist … a woman betrayed by her own blind devotion … a son drowning in the shockwaves from his father’s fall … THE PILLAR holds a mirror to the society that abetted Madoff's epic crime but reviled him once it was revealed, and asks: does our love of money warp the very fabric of our most intimate relationships?


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