In 2015, Pittsburgh Festival Opera launched “Music That Matters,” a series of new opera commissions that speak to important contemporary issues. This series is part of our ambition to keep opera relevant, and create artworks where all communities can see their lives reflected onstage.

We started with A New Kind of Fallout, an opera about environmental issues inspired by Rachel Carson. Our next commission, A Gathering of Sons, explored issues of racial conflict in America. Our new project in this series is Fight for the Right, focusing on the struggle girls and women across the world for access to education.


Night Flight of Minerva's Owl

  • Guang Yang: composer
  • Paula Cizmar: librettist


An opera that weaves together stories of three girls from different parts of the world in different times. Each girl desperately desires an education that has been denied her, and the stories are linked by the time - and space-defying presence of a visionary creature, The Owl, the sacred bird-companion of Minerva, goddess of wisdom.

As the opera begins, three girls are under the night sky, longing for knowledge, longing to escape the limited future that awaits: MINNIE, from 19th -century America; MIN, from early 20th -century China; and MINA, from 21st -century Morocco. The girls don’t see each other, but they sing a lament for what they can’t have, with a tinge of bitterness, but also accompanied by hope. Though they’re from different cultures, different times, and though each girl’s theme is musically distinct, a shared desire for learning unites them.