Login failed. Please try again.

Article Published: 01 Oct 2017


In a few short years, the Opera Grants for Female Composers (OGFC) program has gone a long way toward addressing gender parity in opera composition. In 2013, when the program was established, OPERA America in its decades-long history of support for new American opera had bestowed merely five percent of its grant funding to works by women. But OGFC, founded with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, has to date awarded an impressive $700,000 toward repertoire by female composers. “We’re seeing works by women gain traction on stages across North America,” says Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “This year, we received more applications for Commissioning Grants than ever before, which is a testament to our members’ investment in operas by female composers.”

The Commissioning Grants arm of OGFC has provided a total of $100,000 this year for commissions from six companies. Three of the composers represented are first-time OGFC grantees: Missy Mazzoli, Rachel J. Peters and Paola Prestini, all fixtures of New York’s new-music scene. The other three are former recipients of OGFC Discovery Grants: Laura Kaminsky, for As One in 2014; Sheila Silver, for A Thousand Splendid Suns in 2014; and Nkeiru Okoye, for We’ve Got Our Eye on You in 2016. (While Commissioning Grants of up to $50,000 are awarded to the producing organizations in support of commissions, Discovery Grants of up to $15,000, adjudicated separately, are awarded to the composers themselves.)

2017 OGFC: Commissioning Grants

Houston Grand Opera
Home of My Ancestors
Nkeiru Okoye, composer
Anita Gonzalez, librettist

Taking place during a present-day celebration of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the 1865 abolishment of slavery in Texas, Home of My Ancestors centers on Olivia, an African-American doctor living in Chicago. She returns to her childhood home in Houston’s Third Ward for her grandmother’s memorial service, dreams of her ancestors, and awakens with a revived understanding of home and heritage.

Minnesota Opera
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Paola Prestini, composer
Mark Campbell, librettist

Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, this family-friendly opera follows the adventures of toy rabbit named Edward whose comfortable life in a loving household abruptly ends when he is thrown into the sea from the Queen Mary.

Opera Parallèle
Today It Rains
Laura Kaminsky, composer
Mark Campbell/Kimberly Reed, librettists

Today it Rains dramatizes the moment in 1929 when Georgia O’Keeffe left New York City and her tumultuous marriage with Alfred Stieglitz to move to Santa Fe, where the New Mexican landscape would inspire her artistic output for decades to come.

Sarasota Opera
Rootabaga Country
Rachel J. Peters, composer and librettist

Adapted from Carl Sandburg’s whimsical 1922 Rootabaga Stories, the opera tells the story of Gimme the Ax and his two children, Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, who travel to Rootabaga Country, a land in the sky.

Seattle Opera
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Sheila Silver, composer
Stephen Kitsakos, librettist

Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on two Afghan women from different backgrounds who form a bond when they are forced to share a physically and psychologically abusive husband.

Washington National Opera
Proving Up*
Missy Mazzoli, composer
Royce Vavrek, librettist

Based on a coming-of-age short story by Karen Russell, Proving Up depicts a group of Nebraska families that struggle to claim their land under the Homestead Act of 1862.

*A co-commission with Opera Omaha and the Miller Theatre at Columbia University