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Article Published: 01 Apr 2019

Female Composers Take Center Stage

The seven women receiving Discovery Grants this year through OA’s Opera Grants for Female Composers (OGFC) program join the ranks of some of the most successful composers of recent years. Just within the past year, Laura Kaminsky’s As One, developed with support from an inaugural Discovery Grant, received six productions; it is currently the most produced opera by a living composer in North America. Kaminsky’s latest opera, Today It Rains, bowed at Opera Parallèle at the end of March, thanks in part to a 2017 OGFC Commissioning Grant. Stinney: An American Execution, which earned its composer, Frances Pollock, a 2017 Discovery Grant, got a first look during January’s PROTOTYPE Festival, when it was presented in concert as a work-in-progress. And in February, Opera Columbus and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra premiered Korine Fujiwara’s The Flood, which had garnered a 2016 Commissioning Grant.

This year’s grantees received a total of $100,000. Funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Opera Grants for Female Composers program has, since 2013, given nearly $1 million in Discovery Grants, which go directly to composers, and Commissioning Grants, which provide companies with funds to commission works by women. To date, the program has aided in the development of 68 operas.

The aim of the grant program is not just to fund new works, but also to raise the visibility of female composers among stakeholders in the field. To that end, OPERA America is providing support for the grant recipients to attend Opera Conference 2019 this June in San Francisco, where they will have the opportunity to share information about their works with attendees and meet potential producers.

Visit the Discovery Grants page for more information on how to apply.

Sarah Taylor Ellis
The Trojan Women 
Libretto by Ellen McLaughlin

Based on the tragedy by Euripides, this chamber opera cuts between ancient times and the present day to portray the plight and the strength of women ripped from their war-torn homes.

Donia Jarrar
Libretto by the composer

Weaving together oral-history interviews with women from different generations and social sectors in Palestine, this multimedia opera creates a portrait of love, strength and resistance in the face of war and injustice.

Gina Leishman
Bird of the Inner Eye
Libretto by Joan Schirle

The correspondence of Morris Graves (1910–2001), the Pacific Northwest painter known for his spiritual, symbolic renderings of the natural world, gets a chamber-opera treatment.

Carla Lucero
Libretto by Alicia Gaspar de Alba and the composer

The opera chronicles and the life of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the 17th-century Mexican nun who is often considered the first great poet of the Americas.

Kristin Norderval
The Sailmaker’s Wife
Libretto by Julian Crouch

Based on a Japanese folktale, this chamber opera tells the story of a man’s kindness to an injured crane, who then returns to him in the form of a woman and becomes his wife.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh
We the Innumerable
Libretto by Lisa Flanagan

In this politically charged opera, a husband and wife participate in nationwide protests against Iran’s 2009 presidential election result and become targets of state persecution.

Celka Ojakangas
Mirror Game
Libretto by Amy Punt

Gender bias is the theme of this multimedia opera, which tracks the journey of a female video game designer who decides to confront the gaming industry’s sexism.