Operas by Women

Dame Ethel Smyth, a famous turn-of-the-century suffragist and opera composer. Sketch by John Singer Sargent.
Dame Ethel Smyth, a famous turn-of-the-century suffragist and opera composer. Sketch by John Singer Sargent.

As of March 2016, the Metropolitan Opera holds an unfortunate distinction: In its 135 years of history, it has only ever performed one opera written by a female composer: Ethel Smyth’s Der Wald. This opera had its Met premiere in 1903 – just one year after its world premiere in Berlin (good) – and has never been revived at the Met since (bad).

This peculiar distinction is scheduled to change in the Met’s 2016 season, which offers Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin (Love from Afar). This opera premiered in 2000, which makes it a spring chicken by the Met’s classics-oriented normal repertoire.

In an effort to help draw attention to operas by women composers, Really Spicy Opera presents the following list of 19th-century operas with scores or librettos written by women:

Year of PremiereLast NameFirst & Middle NamesBirth YearDeath YearCapacityTitleSource of Info
1804BawrSophie17731860Composer-LibrettistLes chevaliers du lion Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistDieu le gardeLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1811BawrSophie17731860Composer-LibrettistLion, ou le chliteau de Montaldi Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1805KerkadoMlle Le Senechal de 17861805+ComposerLa méprise volontaire, ou la double leçon Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1809BursayAurore Domergue17??????LibrettistSophie de BrabantLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1813GailSophie17751819ComposerLes deux jalouxLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1813GailSophie17751819ComposerMademoiselle de Launay à la Bastille Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1814GailSophie17751819ComposerAngela, ou l'atelier de Jean Cousin Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1814GailSophie17751819ComposerLa méprise Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1818GailSophie17751819ComposerLa sirinade Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1818GaySophie17761852LibrettistLa sirinade Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1821GaySophie17761852LibrettistLe maitre de chapelle, ou le souper imprivu Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1836GaySophie17761852LibrettistLe Chevalier de Canolle Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1825BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistGuy Mannering Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1827BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistLe loup-garou Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1831BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistFaustoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1836BertinLouise18051877ComposerLa EsmeraldaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1830RivayMme18??????Composer Maitre PalmaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1836PugetLoïsa [Louise-Françoise]18101819ComposerLe mauvais oeilLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1869PugetLoïsa [Louise-Françoise]18101819ComposerLa veilleuse, ou les nuits de milady Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1844Pean de la Roche-JaguE. Françoise 18201871ComposerGil Diaze Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1841Pean de la Roche-JaguE. Françoise 18201871ComposerLe gabier d'Artimon Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1845Pean de la Roche-JaguE. Françoise 18201871ComposerLe tuteur dupeLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1857Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLa pomme de Turquie Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistQuand Dieu est dans le ménage Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1800DevismesJeanne-Hipplolyte 17651808ComposerPraxitèle, ou la ceinture Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLa perruque de BailliLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1862Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLe pays de CocagneLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistManetteLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLe cabaret du pot casséLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1859GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLe sou de LiseLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1863GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLes fiancés de RosaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLa comtesse EvaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerDonna Maria Infante di SpagnaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLa pénitenteLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1869GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerPiccolinoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1859DéjazetHermine18??????ComposerLe diable roseLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864Tarbé des SalonsMme18401875Composer I BataviLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1870Tarbé des SalonsMme18401875Composer Les RoussalkasLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864Santa-Colona SourgetEugenie de18??????Composer L'imageLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Perry-BiagioliAntoinette18??????Composer Les matelots de formidableLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Sabatier-BlotMme18??????Composer Un mariage par quidproquoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1866Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLe sorcierLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLa DryadeLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLes vacances de l'amourLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerTrop de femmesLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerL'ogreLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1869ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerLe dernier sorcierLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867PaigneMme18????ComposerEnfermez-la! Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1893AdelheidWeite [née Humperdinck]18581916LibrettistHänsel und Gretel
1895HolmèsAugusta18471903Composer-LibrettistLa Montagne noireKaren Henson, "In the House of Disillusion: Augusta Holmès and La Montagne noire," Cambridge Opera
Journal Vol. 9, No. 3 (Nov., 1997), pp. 233-262.

Cultivating drama that burns and music that sates.