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Press Released: 25 May 2023

OPERA America Awards Second Round of 2023 Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors

Generously supported by the Marineau Family Foundation.

OPERA America is pleased to announce the second-round recipients of the 2023 Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors.

Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors open doors for women artists by incentivizing professional opera companies of all sizes to engage women in key artistic roles. These hires enrich the production and performance of new operas and works from the inherited repertoire and inspire future generations of creative artists who identify as women. The initiative is generously supported by the Marineau Family Foundation as part of OPERA America’s commitment to improve gender parity in the field.

Grants were awarded to four opera companies that are advancing the careers of women artists:

  • Arizona Opera (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Cincinnati Opera (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA)
  • White Snake Projects (Brookline, MA)

Respectively, the grants support company debuts by the following stage directors and conductors:

  • Sarah Ina Meyers, who will direct Frankenstein (Gregg Kallor, composer/librettist) at Arizona Opera
  • Stephanie Rhodes Russell, who will conduct The Knock (Aleksandra Vrebalov, composer; Deborah Brevoort, librettist) at Cincinnati Opera
  • Yayoi Kambara, who will direct The Emissary (Kenji Oh, composer; Kelley Rourke, librettist) at Opera Parallèle
  • Roxanna Myhrum, who will direct MONKEY: A Kung Fu Puppet Parable (Jorge Sosa, composer; Cerise Lim Jacobs, librettist) at White Snake Projects

(See below for additional information about the artists.) 

Since it was introduced in 2021, the Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Composers program has supported the career advancement of 18 stage directors and 10 conductors. OPERA America’s professional opera company members are invited to apply for grants to subsidize up to 50 percent (up to $10,000) of the fees for women stage directors or conductors who will make their company debuts with the companies in these positions. Grants are awarded in two semiannual rounds; the first round of 2023 awardees was announced in February 2023 (read the press release).

“This latest group of the Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Composers winners exemplifies the commitment of opera companies across the country to bring new voices into opera. From Boston to San Francisco, audiences will enjoy four contemporary works helmed by the women supported by these grants,” remarked Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “We look forward to seeing the work of these women who will shape the future of the art form.”

The Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors program is one of OPERA America’s resources aimed at increasing gender parity across the field. Other initiatives include the Opera Grants for Women Composers, Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, and Women’s Opera Network.

Since the inception of its granting programs in the mid-1980s, OPERA America has awarded over $23 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, administrators, and companies.

More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.

About the Recipients

Arizona Opera Company

Sarah Ina Meyers, stage director
Frankenstein (Gregg Kallor, composer/librettist)

Arizona Opera’s eagerly awaited third world premiere, based on Mary Shelley’s novel of the same name, will open the 2023–2024 season. With a riveting, cinematic score and libretto by Gregg Kallor, the living, feeling Creature is brought to life only to be forsaken by its creator, Victor Frankenstein. Embracing Shelley’s original text, Frankenstein gives poignant voice to the Creature’s struggle and lays bare the horror of alienation and “otherness” with exquisite nuance. At the core of this heartbreaking tale lies an exquisitely wrought plea to look deeper within ourselves to find our commonality and to uphold our responsibility to one another. The Creature will be played by baritone Edward Parks, who won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for singing the title role of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.

Sarah Ina Meyers is a NY based stage director, author and scholar. She directed the premiere of Gregg Kallor’s Dramatic Sketches from Frankenstein in the catacombs at Green-Wood Cemetery, as part of the performance series, The Angel’s Share. The production received rave reviews and was declared one of WQXR’s standout performances of 2018. Operawire described the performance as “riveting … an extraordinary experience” and Limelight extolled Meyers’s direction as “perfectly finessed…. Powerful and meticulous.” This collaboration with Kallor built upon their previous success with his monodrama, The Tell-Tale Heart (produced with On Site Opera) which took place in a crypt. The NY Observer’s James Jorden declared that “starkly simple production” to be “one of the most effective stagings I’ve seen.” In 2016, Meyers began working with Lesley Karsten and Stephen Wadsworth on That’s Not Tango, an unorthodox monodrama about Astor Piazzolla told through text and music. She directed performances of the show for Chamber Music Amarillo in 2021, and for Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2019. Meyers is also the author of a new translation and adaptation of Die Fledermaus, most recently performed by MassOpera. ARTSFUSE described the translation as “a major feat… blow[s] the dust off a creaky antique.” Recent engagements include The Elixir of Love for Curtis Opera Theatre, Tosca for Chautauqua Opera, a staging of Die Walküre for New Orleans Opera featuring a cinematic installation by filmmaker Samantha Aldana, and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied for the Bekshire Opera Festival. She has been a valued member of the directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera since 2006, and holds a PhD in Theatre from Columbia University. 

Cincinnati Opera

Stephanie Rhodes Russell, conductor
The Knock (Aleksandra Vrebalov, composer; and Deborah Brevoort, librettist)

In summer 2023, Cincinnati Opera presents the world stage premiere of The Knock, with music by Aleksandra Vrebalov and a libretto by Deborah Brevoort. Co-commissioned with The Glimmerglass Festival, The Knock tells the story of a group of military wives awaiting news of their husbands who have been deployed to Iraq. Meanwhile, a young army officer makes the long journey to their gathering place to deliver difficult news. Named for the expression used by military spouses for a death notification, The Knock is based on years of interviews with spouses of soldiers, offering a sympathetic glimpse into the lives of America’s military families. Cincinnati Opera’s new production of The Knock is helmed by women: composer Vrebalov, librettist Brevoort, stage director Alison Moritz, and conductor Stephanie Rhodes Russell, who will lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Stephanie Rhodes Russell’s 2022–2023 season includes company debuts with Austin Opera (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and Utah Opera (La fille du régiment) and a return to Madison Opera (Le nozze di Figaro). This summer, she leads performances with Cincinnati Opera (The Knock) and Wolf Trap Opera (Don Giovanni), where she recently conducted Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Her 2021–2022 projects included La traviata with Opera Orlando, “Concert in the Park” with Madison Opera, and a workshop of Proximity: A Trio of New American Operas with Lyric Opera of Chicago. Russell is an alum of The Dallas Opera’s Institute for Women Conductors, the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program, and she is the recipient of a 2019 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award. She served as conducting fellow with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra from 2019–2021, regularly leading education and community concerts and covering symphonic subscription series.

Opera Parallèle

Yayoi Kambara, stage director
The Emissary (Kenji Oh, composer; Kelley Rourke, librettist)

The Emissary is a new comic, dystopian family opera addressing modern environmental angst by composer Kenji Oh and librettist Kelley Rourke, based on the award-winning novel by Yoko Tawada. In her debut role as stage director for Opera Parallèle is Bay Area artist Yayoi Kambara. Kambara has worked with Opera Parallèle before as an associate choreographer and choreographer in productions such as Today It Rains (2019), The Little Prince (2018), and Dead Man Walking (2015). Her staging and choreography integrate visual design and film with voice and physical storytelling.

Yayoi Kambara (she/her/they) has been a Bay Area dance artist since 2000. She is primarily a choreographer. She founded KAMBARA+ in 2015 as a vehicle to produce her choreography, focusing on producing dance performance experiences that cultivate a sense of belonging. Kambara is interested in the authentic voice of the body and its inherent identity in performance. She focuses her choreography on diverse cultural, economic, and ethnic differences by creating space for empathy and dialogue. Kambara completed the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals) Leadership Fellows Program in 2020 and led a yearlong community engagement residency for Hope Mohr Dance's Bridge Project Aesthetic Shift, an exchange dedicated to analyzing the overlap between equity values, creative practices, and organizations. She is a member of Dancing Around Race (DAR) and co-presents at conferences on the roles race plays in dance and its impacts on curation, funding, production, and creative practice.

White Snake Projects

Roxanna Myhrum, stage director
MONKEY: A Kung Fu Puppet Parable (Jorge Sosa, composer; Cerise Lim Jacobs, librettist)

MONKEY: A Kung Fu Puppet Parable is based on the ancient quest saga Journey to the West, in which Buddha sends a monk to retrieve Buddhist sutras in the Western world. Buddha also sends three disciples to protect the monk on this long and arduous journey — the iconic Monkey King, Zhu (a gluttonous man reincarnated into a pig), and Sha (an evil official reincarnated into a cannibalistic sand demon). These three major characters are played by human-sized and larger-than-human-sized puppets. Composed by Jorge Sosa, created and written by Cerise Lim Jacobs, music directed by Tianhui Ng, and stage directed by Roxanna Myhrum, MONKEY is a Wizard of Oz tale for the 21st century.

Roxanna Myhrum is a producer and director of opera, theater, and puppetry who specializes in new work, site-specific performance, and interdisciplinary collaboration. As a pioneering member of Boston’s vibrant fringe opera scene, she has staged over 20 operas in seven different languages, often activating non-traditional spaces including historic homes, dining halls, art galleries, and nightclubs. Myhrum was the first opera directing apprentice at the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado, and she recently graduated from Beth Morrison Projects’ Producer Academy. She is currently on staff at Boston Lyric Opera. For nearly 12 years Myhrum served as artistic director of Puppet Showplace Theater, where she launched over a dozen new works. She is a sought-after puppetry coach and director with credits at almost all of Boston’s professional theaters. Her most recent production was featured in the 2023 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. She is a graduate of Harvard University.


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