IAWM Letter to the Metropolitan Opera

October 31, 2000

Last spring the International Alliance for Women In Music sent the letter below to the Met asking if they would agree in principle to performing an opera by a woman. The Met has performed only one opera by a woman in its 117 year history and that was 97 years ago. (See the letter.) The IAWM asked the Met to respond within three months, but it has now been six and they have not answered at all. The next step is to send another letter, this time by registered mail. I will be happy to formulate the letter. 

If the Met does not answer the IAWM's second letter, it might be necessary to organize a protest and media action. The situation is appalling, which makes the Met's lack of a response especially irresponsible. 

The IAWM's letter to the Met:

April 20, 2000

Joseph Volpe, General Manager
James Levine, Artistic Director
Metropolitian Opera, Lincoln Center
Broadway and 64th Street
New York, NY 10023

Dear Mr. Volpe and Mr. Levine,

I am writing to you on behalf of the International Alliance for Women In Music, a professional society with over 800 members in the United States. Our membership is comprised principally of composers, a number of whom enjoy international recognition. The majority of our members teach at the university level. We work in conjunction with affiliate organizations throughout the world such as Frau und Musik Internationaler Arbeitskreis e.V in Germany, Mujeres en la Musica Asociacion in Spain, Forum Musique et Femmes in Switzerland, Suonodonne Italia in Italy, the Association of Canadian Women Composers, Stichting Vrouw en Muziek in Holland, the Federation of Women Composers in Japan, and Women in Music in Britain.

We would like to suggest that the Metropolitan Opera plan a performance possibly through a commissionof an opera by a woman composer in the nearest possible future. The Met has performed only one opera by a woman in its entire history, "Der Wald" by Ethel Smyth, and that was 97 years ago. In the last eight years the Met has commissioned operas by three men, John Corigliano's ''Ghosts of Versailles,'' in 1991, Philip Glass' ''Voyage[1],'' in 1996 and John Harbison's "Gatsby" in 1999. It thus seems time to commission an opera by a woman.

A premiere by a woman would be an historic event at the Met and we believe its artists and patrons, as well as the international media, would find it a very exciting occasion. The premiere would be good for music and good for the house in many different ways. We would be pleased to assist you in identifying a composer of appropriate stature that would be a good stylistic fit for the Met. 

We realize that such an undertaking takes a great deal of planning, but we would like to know if you are agreed with the idea in principle, and if so, the general time frame you might anticipate for such an event. We respectfully request at least a general response by the end of July, since this will be a topic of great interest to our international journals.

Sally Reid, Ph.D.
International Alliance for Women in Music

[These names are listed as board members on the stationary's sidebar.]
Hansonia Caldwell
Judith Coe
J. Michele Edwards
Lucille Field Goodman
Lynn Gumert
Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner
Deborah Kavasch
Anne Kilstofte
Susan Cohn Lackman
Melissa Maier
Renate Matthei
Eve R. Meyer
Patricia Morehead
Pauline Oliveros
Janice-Rozena Peri
Catherine Pickar
Ellen Grolman Schlegel
Jeanne E. Shaffer
Clare Shore
Marilyn Shrude
Margaret Lucy Wilkins
Marin Alsop
Chen Yi
Emma Lou Diemer
Tania León
Pauline Oliveros
Jeannie Pool
Judith Shatin
Judith Lang Zaimont
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Beverly Grigsby
Nancy L. Stokes
Casper Sunn
[End of the IAWM letter.]

William Osborne
[1] I prepared the above letter which might contain an error. I am not certain Philip Glass' "Voyage" was a commission, but the fact remains that three living men have had operas performed at the Met in the last decade and no women.