Women Composers, Front and Center
Through its Opera Grants for Female Composers (OGFC), OPERA America has now supported the development of nearly 100 operas by women, investing over $1.4 million since the program’s inception in 2013. Several world premieres by past recipients are now on the horizon as companies solidify plans to resume in-person performances: Opera Philadelphia will premiere Jennifer Higdon’s second opera, Woman with Eyes Closed, at its O21 Festival in September. Nell Shaw Cohen’s Turn and Burn, a rodeo-themed opera, will be presented by Houston Grand Opera next spring. Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun’s In Our Daughter’s Eyes is slated for April 2022 at LA Opera. Rhiannon Gidden’s first foray into opera, Omar, originally planned for 2020, will bow at Spoleto Festival USA in summer of 2022.
Through the OGFC program, OA most recently awarded $100,000 in Discovery Grants to eight composers, supporting developmental activities for their new operas. The funded works represent diverse musical styles and wide-ranging subject matter — from an imagining of an Earth without humans, to the real-life story of a deer who wandered throughout a Harlem park, to an examination of surveillance and digital privacy.
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, 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.
Opera Grants for Female Composers are generously funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.