Women Helping Women
"I feel an extraordinary responsibility to hold up the voices of women — as composers, directors, designers, producers — because I know how hard it is,” said opera producer Beth Morrison at OA’s second annual Backstage Brunch. Morrison and composer Paola Prestini, co-founder of National Sawdust, were the speakers at the sold-out January 13 event, which was attended by 85 guests.
Co-chaired by Jeri Sedlar and Nancy Barton, the event raised more than $25,000 for OA’s New Mentorship Program for Women, an initiative designed by the Women’s Opera Network (an alliance formed by OA two years ago to support female professionals). The Mentorship Program pairs three promising administrators with mentors who can help identify advancement barriers and create plans for professional growth. The inaugural group of protégés — Piper Gunnarson of On Site Opera, Katie Preissner of Opera Colorado and Mitra Sadeghpour of University of Northern Iowa — will be mentored, respectively, by Austin Opera’s Annie Burridge, Portland Opera’s Clare Burovac and LA Opera’s Stacy Brightman. The process will include site visits to the mentors’ home companies and meetings this June at Opera Conference 2018 in St. Louis.
The brunch featured the New York premiere of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, a song cycle commissioned by OA and written by an all-female creative time: librettist Kimberly Reed and composers Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman and Ellen Reid. Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson and pianist Mila Henry performed the four songs, which present vignettes from the life of the Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress — from her election in 1917 to the anti-war march on Washington she led in 1968.