Opera America Announces Recipients of the Opera Grants for Women Composers Program

By David Salazar

Opera America has announced the recipients of its 2021 Discovery Grants from the Opera Grants for Women Composers program.

In sum, the winners will receive $100,000 dollars in support; grants were generously supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

This year’s winners include Gelsey Bell for “mɔːnɪŋ,” Christina Campanella for “The Visitation,” Asako Hirabayashi for “Hebi-onna (Snake Woman),” Angel Lam for “Lost Shanghai,” Suying Li for “When the Purple Mountains Burn,” Nicole Paris and Katherine Skovira for “?this is my Body,” and Bora Yoon for “‘아가씨’ Handmaiden [Mademoiselle].”

“mɔːnɪŋ” is inspired by Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” and imagines a world in which humans no longer appear on Earth.

“The Visitation” is a site-specific promenade opera set to be staged in Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. It follows a one-antlered stag roaming the park for two weeks in 2016 before being taken into captivity while the city and state battled over his fate.

“Hebi-onna (Sname Woman” tells the story of a country man who saves a snake from a trap; the snake then transforms into a woman and they marry. When the woman, Mike, turns back into a snake, Yoshizo and his family are faced with rejection from other villagers.

“Lost Shanghai” is set in the 940s and centers on star-crossed lovers who traverse space and time.

“When the Purple Mountains Burn” explores two figures connected ot the 1937 Nanking Massacre.

“?this is my Body” draws from the writings of Shoshana Zuboff and questions the unregulated power and delimitation of surveillance capitalism.

Finally, “‘아가씨’ Handmaiden [Mademoiselle]” follows a Japanese countess and Korean handmaid who plot to cheat and steal from one another before realizing that they are in love. They ultimately overthrow their oppressors.

The grant winners were selected from a pool of 57 composers.

“Until the launch of Opera Grants for Women Composers in 2013, fewer than five percent of the organization’s grants for repertoire development had been awarded to works by women composers,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America, in a press release. “Thanks to the generosity of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and initiatives like the Discovery Grants, we’ve been able to increase and diversify the voices, perspectives, and stories that comprise the American repertoire.”