What We Did
“We started the Advance programme with a fairly narrow line of questioning – looking at female librettists – but the process has transformed our thinking, with the realisation that issues and barriers actually exist much more broadly in the perception of women within the opera sector.”
Michael Duffy, Communications Manager, Mahogany Opera Group
Tonic set out to explore what pathways currently exist for people interested in writing libretti and how, once they’ve found a route in, they can maintain and develop a career in opera writing. From here, Tonic sought to understand what about these pathways may feel appealing and accessible to women and what less so. To do this they interviewed and ran focus groups with lots of opera-making women, including those who are or have written opera libretti, both those starting out and those more established.
They also spoke to opera ‘gatekeepers’; producers, artistic directors, and those involved in training. They researched courses and training opportunities that are currently open to upcoming librettists, and also did some number crunching, looking at the gender of librettists commissioned by a range of opera companies across the UK over a 12 month period.
All of this gave us a clear idea of where the gaps existed in terms of entry points for people keen to write libretti, but also enabled us to reflect on the wider context of opera: the place of women in that context, the power dynamic between librettists and composers during the writing process, and also our own role as opera ‘gatekeepers’.