Why Women Went West by Pamela Madsen and Quintan Ana Wikswo

Laguna Festival of the Arts
Stacey Fraser soprano with Brightwork newmusic

OPERA America Awards over $100,000 Discovery Grants to Support Eight New Works by Women Composers

Generously supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation

The Opera Grants for Women Composers program promotes the generation of new works by women and raises their visibility across the entire field. The grants are made possible through the generosity of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Pamela Madsen, for Why Women Went West: Eleven Eleisons from East to West
In addition to cash awards, OPERA America invites and provides travel support for all grant recipients to attend its annual Opera Conference and New Works Forum, enabling them to develop relationships with potential creative partners and producers. Grant recipients also receive mentorship on the artistic and business aspects of new work development.

“When the Opera Grants for Women Composers launched in 2013, less than 20 percent of world premieres in America were composed by women. Nine years later, that percentage has more than doubled, with 44 percent of new American works in 2020 composed by women,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America (referencing an audit conducted by OA). “This data speaks to a field-wide desire to produce more works by women composers and underlines the value of the Opera Grants for Women Composers program. We are proud to continue this work with the generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.”


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



Pamela Madsen, composer/librettist

Why Women Went West: Eleven Eleisons from East to West

Quintan Ana Wikswo, librettist/video artist

Pamela Madsen is a composer, performer, theorist, and curator of new music whose works have been commissioned and premiered worldwide. From massive landscape-inspired projects and intimate chamber music creations to immersive deep-listening works and multimedia opera collaborations, her work focuses on image, music, text, and the environment. Madsen was selected as an Alpert Award Panelist and a Creative Capital artist “on the radar” and has received awards from National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Meet the Composer, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation. She has held fellowships with MacDowell, UCross, the Women’s International Studies Center in Santa Fe, and the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She is a frequent guest lecturer and composer-performer-improviser at festivals and universities. She is director of the Annual New Music Festival at Cal State Fullerton, where she is professor of music composition. Madsen holds a Ph.D. in music composition from UCSD and a Deep Listening Certificate with Pauline Oliveros, and she performed post-doctoral research at IRCAM, Paris. www.pamelamadsenmusic.com



About Why Women Went West: Eleven Eleisons from East to West: This multimedia chamber opera by composer Pamela Madsen created in collaboration with libretttis Quintan Ana Wikswo, explores controversies over human rights, water wars, and early 20th-century feminist artist communities through the life of Mary Hunter Austin — a writer, feminist, conservationist, and defender of Native American and Spanish American rights. Austin’s quest, trauma, and journey uncover dark mysticism in the American Southwest. Resonating with concerns over marginalization of Indigenous cultures, desecration of women, nature, and escape from conventions through artistic agency, this work reveals ongoing trauma in woman’s quest for autonomy. Two voices — I, Mary (soprano) and Mary by Herself (recorded voice/electronics) — share the part of a sole woman protagonist’s journey west to confront and overcome challenges that have plagued her throughout her life. With a Project Award from National Endowment for the Arts, the work will be completed as part of Awarded Artist Residency at Wurlitzer Foundation, Taos, New Mexico in Summer 2022. This work will be premiered by Brightwork newmusic, featuring soprano Stacey Fraser at the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts, and at Cal State Fullerton School of Music in 2022-2023.