International Women’s Day 2018: Opera News’ F. Paul Driscoll On Women Increasingly Gaining Power in Opera World

By David Salazar

The importance of women and their prominence in modern day society is one of the major topics at hand.

Many industries and organizations are doing their utmost to get women the recognition they deserve, whether it be with better pay, better opportunities, or simply celebrating their achievements and accomplishments.

Opera News, and especially Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll, has taken on the responsibility of building on this trend in its own publication, putting women front and center on a more regular basis. In recent issues, more interviews have put a spotlight on female artists and entrepreneurs of the opera world, with February’s issue being notable for highlighting Florida Grand Opera general director and CEO Susan Danis, soprano Evelyn Herlitzius, and mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis.

“Herlitzius is a leading artist in our field, and our readers are already curious about her: several of her European successes are available on DVD and BluRay,” Driscoll told OperaWire about why he put the spotlight on these particular pioneers of opera. “Abigail Levis is a wonderful young American singer who has star-quality looks, acting ability and vocal skills; she is a fearless, versatile artist who sings everything from Handel and Mozart to 21st century operas.  She was a logical choice for our February ‘Sound Bites’ column, which focuses on artists to watch.

“Susan Danis, the CEO of Florida Grand Opera, is a seasoned professional who has worked in this field for more than twenty years; we thought it was important to recognize her work in her position at Florida Grand Opera, a company with a long, storied history that Ms. Danis is preparing for a bright future.”

Driscoll noted that women need greater positions of power in the opera world, as it remains even today a major issue. While we often see women on stage in leading roles, behind the scenes they are less frequent.

“This industry, like all industries and all businesses, reflects the culture.  The culture in which we are operating is in the process of changing — and change usually happens slowly,” Driscoll noted before listing off that the tide is turning and that a great number of major companies are finally catching on and giving women their rightful place.

“There are now a good number of North American opera companies that employ women in leadership roles. I cannot list them all, but Annie Burridge at Austin Opera; Susan Danis at Florida Grand Opera; Peggy Kriha Dye at Opera Columbus; Esther Nelson at Boston Lyric Opera; Deborah Sandler at Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Dona D. Vaughn at Opera Maine; Kim Witman at Wolf Trap; and Francesca Zambello at the Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera are a few of the women that come to mind.

“My hope — and my belief — is that because these women, and the women who went before them, have taken on leadership roles and done brilliant work that more young women will enter the field with the ambition to continue the process of change.”


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