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Article Published: 08 Nov 2020

New Programs Enhance Vibrancy

Two new OPERA America programs have been launched to foster diversity and inclusion within the field, designed to stimulate opportunities for women directors and conductors and for administrators of color. Meanwhile, OA and librettist Mark Campbell have created a prize for librettists: the very first in operatic history.

The Opera Grants for Female Conductors and Director program will underwrite opera companies when they engage women as first-time hires. The program is supported through a $50,000 grant from the Marineau Family Foundation, which specializes in grant programs for women and girls. “Five years ago, I went to Charles MacKay at Santa Fe Opera with the idea of underwriting female conductors and directors,” says Sue Marineau, president of the Marineau Foundation. “He said, ‘They’re pretty hard to find,’ which was exactly my point. In 2019 [in part through Marineau’s support], two of Santa Fe’s directors were women, so I know it makes a difference. These are small grants, but they help a company say, ‘Yes, we can use this little push.’”

The program will pay up to 50 percent of the fees of female stage directors and conductors for work beginning after July 1, 2021. Companies can apply on a rolling basis, and the awards will be calibrated across budget levels to facilitate the artists’ progress from smaller to larger companies. The current plan is to keep it in operation until those funds are depleted. “My hope is that in 10 or 15 years, these grants will no longer be needed,” says Marineau.

OA’s new Mentorship Program for BIPOC Administrators will join its Mentorship Program for Female Administrators, launched in 2018, in promoting the careers of promising administrators and diversifying the ranks of opera companies. The program will be open to those who identify as BIPOC and will provide tailored mentorship opportunities to help participants achieve their career goals. A steering committee of administrators will help to determine the final shape and scope of these new mentorships.

OA is teaming up with Mark Campbell for the Campbell Opera Librettist Prize. Beginning in spring 2021, it will bestow an annual award of $5,000 to an American librettist. An expert panel will look for an exceptional talent with the potential to make a substantial contribution to the opera literature. “Opera has been on a winning streak, and I want that to continue,” says Campbell, who is funding the prize out of his own pocket. “That won’t happen unless we attract the best librettists possible — and we won’t be able to do that if we don’t honor them the way we do composers.”

This article was published in the Fall 2020 issue of Opera America Magazine.