Podcast 50: The Women’s Opera Network with Laura Lee Everett

Laura Lee Everett tells us everything we need to know about the Women’s Opera Network, as well as about the various grants, mentorships and other programs to support and develop professional women in opera. How things have changed for the better (or worse) in the past 25 years.
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Women’s Opera Network

  • Laura Lee Everett, Director of Opera Services
  • Opera America



  • Lucia di Lamermoor
  • Metropolitan Opera
  • Pretty Yende, soprano – Lucia
  • Michael Fabiano, tenor – Edgardo

Laura Lee

  • Cendrillon at Metropolitan Opera
  • La Fille du Regiment, same director and designers
  • Symphonie Fantastique
    • H.E.R.E Arts Center
    • Christopher Riley, accompanist


  • Divide Light
    • Lesley Dill, Conceiver & Creative Director
    • Emily Dickinson, poet
    • Sarah Fraser, Director
    • Richard Marriott, Composer
    • Artistic Director/Founder of Club Foot Orchestra
    • New Camerata Opera
    • Dixon Place
  • Heartbeat Opera
    • Fidelio
      • Black Lives Matter movement
      • “O welche lust” performed on audio/video recording
      • 6 Midwest Prison Choirs
    • Don Giovanni
  • Center for Contemporary Opera
    • To Be Sung
      • Pascal Dusapin, composer & libretti adaptation
      • Gertrude Stein, author or short story
    • Sorrows of Frederick
      • Scott Wheeler, composer & Librettist

New York Opera Fest 2018

  • Kamchatka
    • Daniel D’Adamo, composer
    • Marcelo Figueras, Librettist
    • Music of the Americas
  • The Rose Elf
    • David Hertzberg, composer & librettist
    • R.B. Schlather, director
    • Unison Media
    • The Green-Wood Cemetery Catacombs


  • Cendrillon
  • Romeo et Juliette
    • Metropolitan Opera
    • Ailyn Perez, soprano as Juliette
    • Charles Castronovo, tenor as Romeo
    • Laurent Naouri, bass-baritone as Capulet & Pandolfe

Gender parity in Opera

  • Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Opera Grants for Female Composers
    • Discovery grants go directly to composers
    • Commissioning goes to companies who commission female composers
    • Here’s a link to all the ladies who have been awarded through the 4 years of this program (47 unique female composers)
  • Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase
    • Selected finalists receive funding to further develop their production design for presentation at the annual Opera Conference
  • Deborah Sandler, Lyric Opera of Kansas City General Director/CEO
    • worked with Laura Lee to create the first conference panel
  • Wendell Harrington, Lighting & Projection Designer
  • Opera America member company levels:*
    • Level One – 15.1 Million and above budgets
      • Of the 10 companies, 0 are run by women [correction]
      • Washington National Opera
        • Tim O’Leary, incoming General Director
        • Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director
    • Level Two
      • Glimmerglass Festival
      • Lyric Opera of Kansas City
    • Level Four
      • Beth Morrison, BMP

+ + + + + +

* Actual gender parity percentages across budget levels

  • Budget 1: 15+ million – 9 / 0  zero companies run by women 0%
  • Budget 2: 3-15 million – 30 / 7 run by women (Austin, Boston, Cincinnati, Florida Grand, Glimmerglass, Kansas City, Vancouver) 23%
  • Budget 3: 1-3 million – 26 / 7 run by women (BMP, Madison, Columbus, Opera Lafayette, Opera Parallele, Tampa, Wolf Trap) 25%
  • Budget 4: 250,000-1 million – 46 / 22 run by women (getting better 47% run by women)
  • Budget 5: <250,000 – 38 / 24 run by women (63% run by women)

+ + + + + +

  • Opera America created a report on the last 25 years of American Opera companies for who was in the Senior Director positions. The goal was to look at any trends or changes in the employment of women in higher positions.
  • Women’s Opera Network has a dedicated FaceBook group part of the Opera America page.
    • It is open to anyone that wishes to be an ally to women in opera
  • Opera Europa
    • World Opera Forum 2018 in Madrid
    • USITT – United States Institute for Theatre Technology
    • Idris Elba, actor
      • Made a speech to British Parliament
      • For diversity to change it is not about opportunity, it’s about access
  • Opera News June 2018 edition articles
  • Kim Pensinger Whitman, VP of opera and classical music programming
  • Wolf Trap Foundation, Vienna, VA
  • How to engage with your Hispanic Audiences
  • Opera Theatre of St. Louis
  • Career Blueprints for Singers
    • A program of Opera America
    • A five-day intensive workshop that helps singers revamp their audition packages and provides them with practical advice on a wide range of topics — from audition etiquette and attire to personal branding and the business of being a professional singer.
  • Dallas Opera
    • The Linda and Mitch Hunt Institute for Women Conductors
    • 2017 enlarged the program to include Women Administrators
  • Nicole Paiment, Principal Guest Conductor
    • Co-Founder of Opera Paralelle in Los Angeles
  • Chicago Opera Theatre
    • Lidiya Yankovskaya, incoming music director
  • Minnesota Opera
    • Board has a diversity group
    • No job application is closed until they see they have a diverse pool of applicants.
  • Alex Sanger, Program Director of Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation
    • grandson of Margaret Sanger
  • Women in Opera Backstage Brunch
    • Jeri Sedlar, co-chair
    • Nancy Barton, co-chair
    • Marc A. Scorca, OPERA America President/CEO,
    • Backstage Brunch, a special morning supporting OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network and its Mentorship Program for the opera field’s most promising female professionals.
  • Women’s Opera Network Mentorship Program 2018
    • Opera Administrator Mentors Program
    • 3 Women professionals are paired with established leaders in their area of interest for a 12 month period.
    • Mentors and menthes participate in the annual Opera Conference
  • Opera America Anti-Harassment Resources Page
    • Launched in March 2018
    • Contains info for individuals in crisis, bystander training, a listing of organizations and resources
  • USITT Women In Theatre Network
  • Progress in Europe
    • The Netherlands are way ahead of the USA in terms of employment parity.
    • The USA is ahead of most other European Companies due to succession issues
    • These companies are usually headed by the same person for decades
    • They don’t normally develop younger administrators to rise up and eventually lead the organizations
    • Emily Gottlieb, Chief Executive
    • National Opera Studio – UK
      • Major European Training Studio for Opera Singers
  • The Interval
    • Website supporting women’s work in theater
  • The Kilroys
    • is a gang of playwrights and producers in LA who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action. We mobilize others in our field and leverage our own power to support one another.
  • The List
  • Since 2014, an annual industry survey of excellent un- and underproduced new plays by female and trans playwrights. It is a tool for producers committed to ending the systemic underrepresentation of female and trans playwrights in the American theater.
  • The Lilly Awards
    • The Lilly Awards were started in the Spring of 2010 as an outlet to honor the work of women in the American theater.
    • The founders of The Lilly Awards, or “The Lillys,” as we affectionately refer to them are:
      • Julia Jordan
      • Marsha Norman
      • Theresa Rebeck
    • The awards are named for Lillian Hellman, a pioneering American playwright who famously said “You need to write like the devil and act like one when necessary.”
  • The Count
    • In partnership with the Dramatists Guild, we have gathered our resources and conducted a national survey simply called The Count that accurately showcases which theaters are producing the work of women, and which are not.
  • Women’s Opera Network Regional Group Calls
    • created to discuss current issues from different USA regions
  • The Gateway Program
    • is a mentorship opportunity at the USITT National Conference for students from underrepresented populations within our industry. A professional mentor from a similar background and career path will guide and maximize each mentee’s experience at the Conference & Stage Expo.
  • 13P
    • A collective of 13 Playwrights
    • They pool their energy to produce one production by each member of the group, at a rate of 3 productions/year. When the cycle is complete they decide whether to start a new cycle, restructure the organization, or disband. Each playwright will be the artistic director for the duration of his/her play’s productions, with sole and final authority over choice of collaborators, casting and all artistic issues.
  • John Duffy Insititute for New Opera
  • Virginia Arts Festival


  • Brooke
    • The Rose Elf
    • Opera Saratoga
      • The Consul
      • Merry Widow
      • VinkenSport of The Finch Opera
      • Rocking Horse Winner
    • Opera Theatre of St. Louis
      • An American Soldier
      • Regina
        • Susan Graham
        • James Morris
        • Susanna Phillips
        • Ron Raines
    • Opera Company of Middlebury
      • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Laura Lee
    • Opera America Conference 2018 in St. Louis, MO, June 20-23
      • Pre-conference session for women on June 19th
      • La Traviata, Opera Theatre of St, Louis
        • Patricia Racette, Director
      • Orfeo, Opera Theatre of St. Louis
      • Seagle Artist Colony Emerging Artist Concert
    • Mostly Mozart
      • Bernstein MASS
      • Los Angeles Philharmonic production
      • Elkannah Pulitzer, Director
      • Pre-show talk by Stephen Schwartz & Elkannah Pulitzer
  • Chuck
    • Divaria Productions
    • Don Giovanni in New York
    • Celebrating the connection between Lorenzo da Ponte, Manuel Garcia and his daughter Maria Malibran
    • Awful Event! or the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln as Interepreted by
    • the Unseen Internal Organs of his Wife
    • Daniel Schlosberg, composer/music director
    • Kate Tarker, playwright
    • Dustin Wills, director
    • Princess Grace Foundation Theater Residency
    • Baryshnikov Arts Center
    • Beast in the Jungle, a dance play
    • Susan Stroman, director/choreographer
    • John Kander, composer
    • David Thompson, playwright
    • Vineyard Theatre
  • Walker
    • Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC
    • Tree of Codes
      • Liza Lim, composer
      • based on the art book by Jonathan Safran Foer
    • Dock Street Theatre
      • First theater built in the USA
    • Quarry
      • Meredith Monk, composer
      • Presented as part of Festival 2003
      • Gaillard Performing Arts Center
  • Laura Lee
    • The Play That Goes Wrong
    • My Fair Lady
    • Bartlett Sher, director
    • Michael Yeargan, scenic designer


We have to keep talking about equality and gender parity. Don’t let it get knocked out by all the other noise. Share the knowledge. Don’t be afraid to step up and tell people what you want to do. Tell people about the good work being created.

Credits: Peter Szep, Chuck Sachs, Brooke Larimer, Walker Lewis, Matthew Wilson (Audio Engineer), Peter Szep (Editor)





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