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Article Published: 01 Apr 2020

Who Run the World? Women

Women now occupy 46 percent of leadership positions at opera companies, up from just 36 percent in 2015. This statistic was greeted with applause at OPERA America’s annual Backstage Brunch, a fundraiser celebrating women in opera that was co-chaired by Astrid Baumgartner and Jill Steinberg and held January 25 at the National Opera Center. Laura Lee Everett, OA’s chief programs officer, reported that growth in female leadership was especially robust at smaller companies: 65 percent of small companies (those operating on $250,000 or less annually) are run by women.

Jeri Sedlar, Paola Prestini, Aliana de la Guardia and Lee Anne Myslewski
Jeri Sedlar, Paola Prestini, Aliana de la Guardia and Lee Anne Myslewski (photo: BAM & Co. Photography)

Moving the needle on gender parity among opera leaders is a core objective of OA’s Mentorship Program for Women, which has been supported since its 2018 inception by the Backstage Brunch. Each year, the Mentorship Program pairs three promising female administrators with established industry leaders who help them identify barriers to advancement and develop plans for professional growth.

One of this year’s mentor-protégé pairs — Aliana de la Guardia and Lee Anne Myslewski — took the stage at the brunch to discuss their career arcs. They were joined onstage by composer Paola Prestini, co-founder and artistic director and National Sawdust, and Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of The Glimmerglass Festival, and artistic director of Washington National Opera. Excerpts from new works by Kamala Sankaram and Lisa DeSpain rounded out the program. Both composers are recipients of OA’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, which to date has awarded nearly $1.2 million in support of operas by women.

Mentors and Protégées

The participants in the 2020 Mentorship Program for Women

Protégé: Adriane Fink, Director of Institutional Partnerships, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Mentor: Ashley Magnus, Edlis Neeson General Director, Chicago Opera Theater

Protégé: Aliana de la Guardia, Co-Artistic Director, Guerilla Opera (Boston, MA)
Mentor: Lee Anne Myslewski, Vice President of Opera and Classical Programming, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Protégé: Karina Kacala, Director of Advertising and Promotions, Opera Philadelphia
Mentor: Peggy Kriha Dye, General and Artistic Director, Opera Columbus

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