Press Released: 07 Apr 2021

OPERA America Hosts Backstage Brunch Benefiting The Mentorship Program For Women Administrators

OPERA America will host the fifth annual Backstage Brunch, a virtual salon and fundraiser in support of its Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, on Saturday, April 17, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EDT. The Mentorship Program, which is overseen by OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network, pairs the field’s most promising women professionals with accomplished opera leaders who can support these protégés in achieving their career goals. The program is one of several OPERA America initiatives to advance gender parity field-wide.

The theme of this year’s Backstage Brunch is Empowering Women in Opera, and it will highlight the experiences and the work of women leaders in the industry. Given the virtual nature of this year’s event, the Brunch will be open to a national and international audience for the first time since its inception in 2017.

The program will include an interview with Karen Slack, soprano, advocate, artistic advisor at Portland Opera, and host of online talk show Kiki Konversations; a keynote presentation by Anne Midgette, former chief classical music critic of The Washington Post; and performances of works by composers Justine F. Chen and Niloufar Nourbakhsh, both recipients of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers. Attendees and panelists are invited to stick around for networking hangouts after the brunch from 1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT.

The Brunch will also feature several protégés and mentors from previous cycles of the Mentorship Program. It will be emceed by Mitra Sadeghpour, education director at Minnesota Opera (protégé 2018), and Stacy C. Brightman, vice president of LA Opera Connects (mentor 2018). The featured interview will be conducted by Rebekah Diaz, manager of community engagement and IDEA initiatives at Pittsburgh Opera (protégé 2019.)

The Backstage Brunch is chaired by many generous women in communities across North America, including Sue Bienkowski, Long Beach Chair; Astrid Baumgardner, Past Chair (New York City); Michele Fabrizi, Pittsburgh Chair; Margee Filstrup, Tulsa Chair; Carol Henry, Los Angeles Chair; Laura Kaminsky, Past Chair (New York City); Sue Marineau, Santa Fe Chair; Jeri Sedlar, Past Chair (Sarasota); Jill Steinberg, Past Chair (New York City); Rhonda Sweeney, Houston Chair; Shoshana Tancer, Phoenix Chair; and Elisabeth Waltz, Austin Chair. To become a regional chair, contact Dan Cooperman, chief advancement officer, at DCooperman@operaamerica.org.

“The unfortunate reality is that women are still underrepresented in opera’s top positions, especially in larger companies,” commented Laura Lee Everett, chief programs officer of OPERA America. “However, through initiatives like the Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, we’ve already made significant strides in advancing women into key leadership positions across the field, including the recent appointment of Julia Noulin-Merat, a 2018 protégé, as General Director of Opera Columbus.”

“We are so pleased to expand the reach of the Brunch this year by opening it up to an international audience,” stated Cheryl Hickman, general and artistic director, Opera on the Avalon, and Co-Chair of OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network. “The Brunch not only provides funding for crucial programs, but it allows women from across the entire field to come together to highlight their achievements, discuss how to overcome barriers, and share opportunities for personal and career growth.”

Tickets to the Backstage Brunch start at $100, with special $50 tickets for opera professionals. Administrators or artists who are unable to purchase a ticket may request a ticket underwritten by event sponsors. All tickets and contributions are 100% tax-deductible. To learn more, purchase tickets, or make a donation, visit operaamerica.org/BackstageBrunch.

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