Women Stage Directors and Conductors
Women Stage Directors and Conductors
Press Published: 26 Jan 2022

OPERA America awards 2022 Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors

Generously supported by the Marineau Family Foundation.

OPERA America is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors. The program incentivizes companies to hire women in these key artistic roles in order to enrich the production and performance of new operas and works from the inherited repertoire; introduce audiences to the talent and insight of new artists, and inspire future generations of creative artists who identify as women.  The initiative is

A survey of recent opera seasons revealed that women make up fewer than 30 percent of the stage directors and fewer than 15 percent of the conductors working on American opera productions. “OPERA America is committed to righting this imbalance,” remarked Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “The work this year’s grantees will create is wide-ranging in subject matter and will benefit from their tremendous skill and interpretive perspective.”

OPERA America’s Professional Company Members are eligible to apply for grants to subsidize up to 50 percent (up to $10,000) of the fees for women stage directors or conductors who are contracted for the first time by the companies.

The nine opera company recipients are Anchorage Opera (Anchorage, AK), Florida Grand Opera (Miami, FL), Guerilla Opera (Boston, MA), IN Series (Washington, D.C.), Kentucky Opera (Louisville, KY), Opera Cultura (San Jose, CA), Opera San José (San Jose, CA), and Portland Opera (Portland, OR).

The 2022 grantees support the company debuts of the following artists:

  • Cara Consilvio, who will direct I Give You My Home (Beth Wiemann, composer/librettist) for Guerilla Opera

  • Shannon Davis, who will direct Missing (Brian Current, composer; Marie Clements, librettist) for Anchorage Opera

  • Nataki Garrett, who will direct The Central Park Five (Anthony Davis, composer; Richard Wesley, librettist) for Portland Opera

  • Jeri Lynne Johnson, who will conduct Agrippina (George Frideric Handel, composer; Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, librettist) for Florida Grand Opera

  • Paula Nava Madrigal, who will conduct Frida (Robert Xavier Rodriguez, composer; Hilary Blecher, book; Migdalia Cruz, lyrics and monologues) for Opera Cultura

  • Crystal Manich, who will direct West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein, composer; Stephen Sondheim, lyricist) for Opera San José

  • Claron McFadden, who will conduct Desdemona (by Toni Morrison, with the music of Nina Simone) for IN Series

  • Judith Yan, who will conduct Orfeo ed Euridice (Christoph Willibald Gluck, composer; Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, librettist) for Kentucky Opera

(See below for additional information about the artists)

In this cycle, these stage directors and conductors will illuminate works from the inherited repertoire as well as new works, including two works from the 1700s, one musical-theater work from the 1950s, and five operas written since 1991, including one world premiere. All performances are scheduled to take place in the first six months of 2022.

The Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors program is one of OPERA America’s resources aimed at increasing gender parity across the field. Others include Opera Grants for Women Composers, the Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, and the Women’s Opera Network. Since the inception of its granting programs in the mid-1980s, OPERA America has awarded over $20 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, administrators, and companies.

Applications for the next round of Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors are now open; the deadline to apply is February 23, 2022. More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

About the Recipients

Anchorage Opera

Shannon Davis, director
Missing by Brian Current, composer, and Marie Clements, librettist

Shannon Davis is a Bay Area-based director, performer, and community organizer originally from her ancestral homeland of Wisconsin. She is in the Cal Shakes Artist Circle, a company member of In the Margin, and the director of community connections at American Conservatory Theater. Davis holds an M.F.A. in directing and acting from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked with the following organizations: New Native Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Repertory Theater, American Indian Community House, Cal Shakes, Theatre of Yugen, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, MoxieArts NY, Brava Theater, Tantrum Theater, Ohio University, Ashland New Plays Festival, Forward Theatre, Shotgun Players, TheaterWorks, Theatre Bay Area, Marin Shakespeare, San Francisco Playhouse, Renaissance Theaterworks, Playwrights Foundation, and Vortex Repertory Company, among others.

Florida Grand Opera

Jeri Lynne Johnson, conductor
Agrippina by George Frideric Handel, composer, and Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, librettist

In 2005, Jeri Lynne Johnson made history as the first Black woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. She has broken barriers in Europe and the U.S. as the first African American woman on the podium for many orchestras and has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (U.K.), and Weimar Staatskapelle (Germany), among others. Davis is the founder and artistic director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. She founded Black Pearl in Philadelphia as a model for the 21st-century American orchestras, combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and meaningful community engagement. Black Pearl has been recognized nationally and internationally as an award-winning leading innovator in social justice and racial equity.  Based upon her work with Black Pearl, Davis established DEI Arts Consulting in 2015 as a vehicle to offer strategic and creative solutions for cultural institutions seeking to create a culture of belonging.

Guerilla Opera

Cara Consilvio, director
I Give You My Home by Beth Wiemann, composer/librettist

Cara Consilvio is a director and producer of opera, theater, and film. Her credits include Il trovatore for Opera in the Heights, where in 2020 she directed the world premieres of The Leader and Kassandra. Other world premiere credits include Our Trudy for the Ad Astra Music Festival. She staged Scalia/Ginsburg for Chautauqua Opera Company, Opera Carolina, and Opera Grand Rapids. In spring 2021, Consilvio directed the chamber opera season at Grand Rapids Opera, which included Penny, an opera film, and Second Nature. She directed and edited Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook, a world premiere opera film for Fort Worth Opera. She has staged new productions of Hydrogen Jukebox at Chautauqua Opera Company, An American Dream at Anchorage Opera, The Threepenny Opera at Syracuse Opera, Suor Angelica and Glory Denied at Tri-Cities Opera, and The Elixir of Love at Piedmont Opera. Consilvio is a co-founder of Hup! Productions and is currently in post-production on her feature film directing debut, a documentary called For the Love of Friends, which will premiere on the film festival circuit in 2022.

IN Series

Claron McFadden, conductor
Desdemona by Toni Morrison, with the music of Nina Simone

The American soprano Claron McFadden studied voice at the Eastman School of Music and received her bachelor’s degree with distinction in 1984. In the same year, she moved to the Netherlands, where she currently resides, and has proven herself to be one of the most versatile singers of her generation. As a performer, she has appeared on many of the world's leading opera stages, including the Dutch National Opera, Glyndebourne, the Barbican, La Fenice, La Monnaie, and the Vlaamse Opera. Since 2009, McFadden has been engaged in work as a theater maker, both as stage director and conductor. As a director, she has created stage productions, theater works, and films for Operadagen Rotterdam, Muziektheater Transparant, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, La Monnaie, and the Vlaamse Opera. She has worked closely on these projects with composer Michel van der Aa. McFadden is currently engaged as the conductor and director for a cross-cultural film project to be released in summer 2022.

Kentucky Opera

Judith Yan, conductor
Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck, composer, and Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, librettist

Canadian conductor Judith Yan, born in Hong Kong, is equally adept at conducting opera, ballet, and symphony. Her international career has taken her to the podiums of major companies in Europe, Asia, and North America. She has also held staff conductor positions at San Francisco Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet of Canada, and she is currently the principal conductor of Opera on the Avalon. While with San Francisco Opera, Yan’s performances of The Rake’s Progress for Merola were included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 10 classical performances of the year. Prior to SFO, she served as the first conductor-in-residence of the Canadian Opera Company, where her performance of The Rape of Lucretia garnered critical acclaim. Yan made her German conducting debut at Theater Ulm with La Cenerentola and Idomeneo and her Italian debut in Sulmona with Le nozze di Figaro, returning the following season to conduct La bohème. Recent performances include three world premieres, including Jack Perla and Jessica Murphy Moo’s An American Dream for Seattle Opera and John Estacio and Robert Chafe’s Ours for Opera on the Avalon.

Opera Cultura

Paula Nava Madrigal, conductor
Frida by Robert Xavier Rodriguez, composer, with book by Hilary Blecher, and lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz

Paula Nava Madrigal is a Mexican American conductor who has studied music and education in Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. She is the conductor of the Ballard Civic Orchestra and artistic director of Orquesta Northwest. While pursuing her career as a conductor, she was a disciple of one of the most important Mexican conductors, Guillermo Salvador. Nava Madrigal is passionate about classical music and Latinx culture. As a cellist, teaching artist, and conductor, she has created and participated in numerous projects, providing classical music experiences that promote inclusion and intercultural understanding in Mexico and in the U.S. She founded the World Youth Orchestra program for underserved immigrant and refugee youth in the Seattle area in 2014. Since 2019, she has been artistic director of Orquesta Northwest, which she also co-founded. Nava Madrigal is the artistic director and founder of the Northwest Latino Chamber Music Festival, and she also founded the Xalisco Chamber Orchestra in Guadalajara, Mexico. She currently serves at the Seattle Music Commission and is a radio host. In 2020, she was nominated for the Mayor’s Arts Award of Seattle.

Opera San José

Crystal Manich, director
West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, composer, and Stephen Sondheim, lyricist

Puerto Rican director Crystal Manich is an Emmy Award-nominated, versatile Latinx international creative leader whose works for stage and screen have been seen across the United States, Argentina, and Australia. She recently won Best First-Time Female Director at the 2021 Toronto International Women Film Festival for her opera feature film The Copper Queen. She also recently directed a multi-camera livestream of Catán’s Spanish-language opera La Hija de Rappaccini for Chicago Opera Theater at the Field Museum, for which she has been nominated for a regional Emmy. Passionate about the Spanish language and stories about the Latinx experience, Manich directed the world-premiere play for young audiences Return to Sender by Marisela Orta at Nashville Children’s Theatre and resurrected Michael John LaChiusa’s musical Bernarda Alba for Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis to critical acclaim in 2020. From 2008 to 2013 she was the co-founding artistic director of Opera Omnia, and she toured with Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam in Brazil as assistant artistic director. She holds a B.F.A. in drama (directing) and a master’s degree in arts management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Portland Opera

Nataki Garrett, director
The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis, composer, and Richard Wesley, librettist

Nataki Garrett (she/her/hers) is the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the largest theater-producing organizations in the U.S., and she is widely recognized as an innovative and influential arts leader. Across her career, Garrett has fostered and developed new work — having directed and produced the world premieres of vital contemporary playwriting voices, including Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Aziza Barnes — and has been at the vanguard of adapting and devising new ways of performing the classics. Garrett is a recipient of the first-ever Ammerman Prize for Directing, given by Arena Stage. She also received the National Endowment for the Arts and Theatre Communications Group Career Development Fellowship for Theatre Directors. She is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a board member of Theatre Communications Group, a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and an advisory board member of Mixed Blood Theatre.

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