Fight for the Right is a global commissioning competition for composer and librettist teams to create original music dramas based on themes of women's education. The winning entry in the competition will receive a full mainstage production during Pittsburgh Festival Opera's summer festival in 2019.

Malala Yousafzai
Michelle Obama
Oprah Winfrey
Ruby Bridges
The kidnapped Chibok girls
Your next-door neighbor?

These women, among many others, have changed the narrative of women's education. What will be your story? We want to amplify girls’ and women’s voices, offer them a platform to imagine, speak, sing, and write about what they can change, what they can achieve, and how they can better their lives through access to education. Only the educated are free. Help change the world through music and drama. Women composer/librettist teams are especially encouraged to apply.



The application has now closed. Thanks to all those who applied. 


african school


Eligibility & TIMELINE


Applicants will submit online:

  • A work sample of vocal writing by the composer (aria, art song, opera scene, etc.): score and recording (preferred) or MIDI file.
  • A work sample of dramatic writing by the librettist (libretto or play preferred): a complete work is preferred. Excerpts will be accepted. 
  • A synopsis of the proposed story dealing with women or girls and their journey to overcome obstacles in their wish to transform their lives through education, either formal or informal. Stories may be fictional or based on actual people and events.  Read more under "Details and Guidelines. (1,000 words max.)
  • A description of the concept and motivations for applying, answering the specific questions found here
  • Headshots, resumes, and bio information for the creative team
  • A $25 application fee 


  • January 1 2018 Deadline to submit proposal.
  • February 1 2018 Semifinalists are notified.
  • Spring 2018 Semifinalists write libretto and write and orchestrate one scene.
  • Summer 2018 Scenes are workshopped in Pittsburgh. A finalist is chosen. 
  • Fall 2018-Spring 2019 Finalists complete their work
  • Summer 2019 Finalists' work is presented as a mainstage production 



Semifinalist teams receive:
$1,000 total for the composer(s), $500 total for the librettist(s), a travel stipend and free housing in Pittsburgh for the workshop period (June/July 2018)

Semifinalists will be featured in a crowdfunding campaign in spring 2018 and will receive a percentage of the funds raised. 

Finalist teams receive:
An additional $4,000 for composer, an additional $2,000 for the librettist, a full production in the 2019 season, a travel stipend, and free housing in Pittsburgh for the production period (June/July 2019)


Details and Guidelines

  • Applicants will submit materials by Monday 1 January 2018. 
  • Four submissions will be selected as semifinalists and notified in early 2018. These four creative teams will work to write the full libretto and compose and orchestrate a scene from the work to be workshopped at the 2018 summer festival in Pittsburgh. Based on the workshop process and scenes presentation at the festival, one piece will be selected for a full production in the 2019 festival.
  • The story must focus on, in some way, women or girls and their journey to overcome obstacles in their wish to transform their lives through education, either formal or informal. Stories may be fictional or based on actual people and events. Stories can address a fight to be educated against all odds. Consider Ruby Bridges, Malala, or a local single mother attending night school. Stories could explore a conflict that arises by a girl's wish to learn and grow in a reactionary community. Consider the Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Stories could examine the struggle of a Western woman married to a Middle Eastern man, who has certain views of a woman's place in the world. Perhaps the story follows a young African girl's journey to become a doctor in order to help fight against the practice of FGM. There are many possibilities for subject matter—the story must simply be relevant to women's Fight for the Right to education. 
  • Composers may write their own librettos. Multiple submissions from the same teams will be accepted, but they must submit a new application for each additional work.


For semifinalists:

  • There is no specific length requirement for the full libretto. The finalist's full 2019 production may not last longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes. 
  • The piece may have a maximum of 12 roles (including chorus members) and the cast must be at least 50% women. 
  • Music can be written in any style, as long as it serves the story. Pittsburgh Festival Opera has produced a rich variety of works in the past, including many newly commissioned music dramas, jazz and gospel operas, contemporary 'classical' works and reimagined traditional operatic works. 
  • Operas can be written with an accompanying ensemble of up to 15 instruments in mind. Once selected, semifinalists will work to orchestrate their workshop selections for review. Semifinalists should discuss the use of nontraditional orchestral instruments with the PFO artistic staff. Scenes will be presented with piano in the workshop. Composers retain the copyright of submitted works, but Pittsburgh Festival Opera retains the right to produce the works for five years from submission without royalty payment. 
  • All submitted works will be added to a database used by universities and opera companies seeking composers and new works. Arrangements with other companies will be between the artists and those companies; Pittsburgh Festival Opera will not be involved.


Application Information

Visit YAPTracker to apply:

Submissions must be received by Monday 1 January 2018 at 11:59 pm.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.