Sunday Morning Opera: Operas Written by Women


There are well over 500 operas written by women.  Can you name one?  I can’t.  I can’t even name one of the top ten female composers.   Why aren’t opera houses performing work by women?  The Met did L’Amour de Loin by Kaija Saariaho, last year.

My problem is the fact that I just don’t like modern opera. Sorry, but I can’t stand it. I have no tolerance for it. What I don’t get is if we can get beautiful music out of John Williams, for soundtracks, why do classical composers feel they must stretch the envelope for something that makes a person cringe?

I have the same problem with Figaro Gets a Divorce by Elena Langer. Modern opera makes me cringe.

One of the problems locating clips from opera composed by women is there isn’t much even performed. Germaine Tailleferre’s La petite sirène is quite beautiful, and could be a heck of a lot of fun to produce. Forget that.

Piano compositions

One of the earliest surviving operatic compositions by a woman – Francesca Caccini – is La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina. From what I gather it was something of a success.  It is still being performed. It’s not bad, quite baroque.

I like this – The Wreckers by  Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, then again, it does reflect the era, almost post-Wagnarian. She was a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to vote!

“…In 1910 Smyth joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, a suffrage organization, giving up music for two years to devote herself to the cause. Her “The March of the Women” (1911) became the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1912, when the WSPU’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, called on members to break a window in the house of any politician who opposed votes for women, Smyth was one of the 109 members who responded to Pankhurst’s call. She, Pankhurst, and 100 other women were arrested, and she served two months in Holloway Prison.[16][17] When her proponent-friend Thomas Beecham went to visit her there, he found suffragettes marching in the quadrangle and singing, as Smyth leaned out a window conducting the song with a toothbrush.[18]…”

Then there is her March of the Women, a tribute to the suffrage movement.

Why aren’t operas written by women being performed?

Why aren’t women being commissioned to write them?