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Press Published: 29 Jul 2021

Three Protégé-Mentor Teams Selected for OPERA America's 2021 Mentorship Program for Women Administrators

OPERA America is pleased to announce the three pairs of protégés and mentors selected for the organization’s Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, now in its fourth year. The Mentorship Program for Women Administrators provides promising opera administrators an opportunity to be paired with industry leaders who can help them overcome barriers to advancement and develop plans for professional growth.

This year’s participants are:

  • Protégé: Katherine Baltrush Little, Associate Operations Director, San Francisco Opera
  • Mentor: Anh Le, Director of Marketing and PR, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

  • Protégé: Mary Birnbaum, Associate Director, Artist Diploma Program, The Juilliard School
  • Mentor: Andrea Puente-Catán, Director of Major Gifts and Hispanic Initiatives, San Diego Opera

  • Protégé: Alison F. Turner, Trustee and Treasurer, Opera Memphis
  • Mentor: Francesca Zambello, Artistic and General Director, The Glimmerglass Festival; Artistic Director, Washington National Opera

See below for profiles of the participants.

Each protégé-mentor team will develop a personalized plan for professional development based on the goals of the protégé. They will work together during 2021 and 2022 through remote and in-person sessions, including meetings at Opera Conference 2022 in Minneapolis.

The Mentorship Program was created in 2018 to help advance the goals of OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network, an action-oriented affinity group dedicated to addressing and advancing gender parity in the field. The Women’s Opera Network seeks to provide ongoing support for emerging female professionals in opera and to design programs that nurture and advance talented women.

“There have been notable changes in gender parity across the opera field in recent years,” stated Laura Lee Everett, chief programs officer at OPERA America. “However, there is still progress to be made. Initiatives like the Mentorship Program for Women Administrators can bolster the careers of women working in opera and help take them to the next professional level.”

In 2021, women hold 47% of general director positions at opera companies of all budget sizes, but only 17% of general director positions at companies of the largest budget size. The percentage of women in general director roles at mid-sized companies has increased notably in the past five years, suggesting progress, as skilled women at smaller companies are hired into increasingly larger organizations.

“Participating in the Mentorship Program prepared me to take the next step in my career,” said Julia Noulin-Mérat, a 2019 protégé who co-led a small-budget opera company at the time. “The invaluable skills and experiences I gained while working with my mentor played a big part in my eventual appointment as the general director and CEO of Opera Columbus.” 

The 2021 Mentorship Program is supported by OPERA America’s fifth annual Backstage Brunch fundraiser.

Other OPERA America programs focused on the advancement of opera administrators include the Leadership Intensive and the Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color. To learn more about leadership development programs at OPERA America, visit operaamerica.org/LeadDev.


Katherine Baltrush Little
Associate Operations Director, San Francisco Opera


Katherine Baltrush Little is a trained performer and musicologist and an experienced opera producer, administrator, and educator who has worked with both world-renowned and emerging artists for over a decade. She currently serves as the associate operations director at San Francisco Opera, where she manages the daily operations of the organization’s orchestra, chorus, and corps de ballet, and participates in managing relations with the American Guild of Musical Artists and the American Federation of Musicians. She is also a member of the teams responsible for planning mainstage and auxiliary programming. Little previously held posts at The Juilliard School and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she served as the lead producer of operas, orchestral concerts, and masterclasses, among other programming. She also held posts at OPERA America, where she participated in the production of Opera America Magazine, conducted the Professional Opera Survey, and assisted with programming for the annual Opera Conference.

Anh Le
Director of Marketing and PR, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis


Anh Le is the director of marketing and PR at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, overseeing all sales campaigns, audience development initiatives, and media relations while providing strategic support for community engagement efforts. Le is also deeply involved with OPERA America, where she serves as a member of the Board of Directors, co-chair of the Marketing Network, and member of the Racial Justice Opera Network’s Steering Committee. Le has previously served as a member of the American delegation to the inaugural World Opera Forum, spoken about issues of diversity and inclusion at several conferences, and participated in the inaugural administrative class of The Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Administrators. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2012 with a B.A. in history and literature. In 2015, Le completed an M.F.A. in theater management at the Yale School of Drama, where she also served as the associate director of marketing for Yale Repertory Theatre.

Mary Birnbaum
Associate Director, Artist Diploma Program, The Juilliard School


Mary Birnbaum is an opera and theater director and the associate director of Juilliard’s artist diploma in opera studies program. Her directing credits include La bohème at the Santa Fe Opera; Dido and Aeneas at Opera Holland Park in London and the Royal Opera at Versailles; The Rape of Lucretia, The Magic Flute, and Eugene Onegin at Juilliard; and The Classical Style at Carnegie Hall. Her work has also appeared at companies like Opera Philadelphia, Houston Chamber Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Columbus, and Boston Baroque. As a writer and translator, Birnbaum created the English translation for Opera Columbus’ 2020 Barber of Seville. She also has written and directed filmed adaptations of classical pieces. Most recently, she directed a film of Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate featuring mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson and interpolated music by composer Iman Habibi, which is scheduled for release later this year. A graduate of Harvard College, Mary trained professionally in physical theater at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

Andrea Puente-Catán
Director of Major Gifts and Hispanic Initiatives, San Diego Opera


Andrea Puente-Catán has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a professional harpist, accomplished fundraiser, classical music producer, and promoter and advocate of Hispanic culture and opera in Spanish. As director of major gifts and Hispanic affairs at San Diego Opera, she oversees the Opera en Español initiative, plans and executes strategies to build relationships with donors and media partners, and produces Ópera en tu sofa, a series of virtual programs. She actively promotes and lectures on Spanish opera and the work of her late husband, renowned opera composer Daniel Catán, at opera houses around the world. Prior to her fundraising career, Puente-Catán served as the principal harpist of several orchestras in Mexico and the U.S. She holds an M.S. from New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an M.M. from California State University, Los Angeles, among other degrees. She is an alumna of OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive and the American Express Women Leadership Academy.

Alison F. Turner
Trustee and Treasurer, Opera Memphis


Alison F. Turner, treasurer of Opera Memphis’ board of trustees, is a native Memphian who enjoys a multifaceted life as a chorister, musician, community leader, and entrepreneur. Turner joined Opera Memphis in 2019 as a member of the chorus for The Falling and The Rising, and she has sung with many community-based choruses, including the Tennessee Mass Choir, Memphis Symphony Chorus, and Dallas Symphony Chorus. She is a graduate of Leadership Memphis (Grassroots 2017), where she has led many campaigns in her aptly named neighborhood, called Soulsville, USA. Turner serves as vice-president of Harmonic South String Orchestra, which puts violins, violas, cellos, and basses in the hands of young musicians, particularly students in South Memphis. Turner has owned an insurance agency, a mortgage brokerage company, and currently a tax preparation service.  She graduated with honors from LeMoyne-Owen College with a B.A. in music, B.B.A. in business administration, and A.A. in general studies. 

Francesca Zambello
Artistic and General Director, The Glimmerglass Festival; Artistic Director, Washington National Opera


An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello serves as artistic and general director of The Glimmerglass Festival and artistic director of Washington National Opera. She began major commissioning programs for new works at both companies, resulting in productions of many large and small-scale new works. She was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contributions to French Culture and was conferred the Knighthood of the Order of the Star of Italy for her contribution to the promotion of the Italian musical and operatic heritage. Other honors for her work include three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, and the French Grand Prix des Critiques, awarded twice for her work at the Paris Opera. Zambello has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Juilliard, and Yale. An American who grew up in Europe, she speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She is a graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.