Female Composers in the Spotlight
Before OPERA America launched Opera Grants for Female Composers (OGFC) in 2013, fewer than five percent of its grants for repertoire development had been awarded to works by female composers. OGFC has helped to reverse that trend by investing over $1.2 million in operas by women to date, including support for Laura Kaminsky’s As One, now the most performed American opera in the country, and Ellen Reid’s p r i s m, which went on to win the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.
Through the OGFC program, OA most recently awarded $100,000 in Discovery Grants to seven composers, supporting developmental activities for their new operas. The funded works represent diverse musical styles and wide-ranging subject matter — from a reimaging of the Pleiades myth, to an archaeological mystery, to a portrait of a civil rights activist. The aim of the grant program is not just to fund new works, but also to raise the visibility of female composer among stakeholders in the field. To that end, OA invites and subsidizes all grant recipients to attend its annual Opera Conference and its New Works Forum, enabling them to develop relationships with potential collaborators and producers. The grant recipients also receive mentorship from creative consultant Peggy Monastra, senior advisor and former artistic director of G. Schirmer Inc./AMP, who provides guidance on the strategic planning and business aspects of new work development.
In addition to Discovery Grants, the OGFC program also provides Commissioning Grants to opera companies, helping to cover the commissioning fees of female composers. The next round of Commissioning Grant recipients will be announced this summer.
Opera Grants for Female Composers are generously funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.