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 held an unfortunate distinction: In its 135 years of history, it had 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 changed in the Met’s 2016 season, which offered 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. However, there is much room for improving this diversification.

In an effort to help draw attention to operas by women composers, and to the librettists who are sometimes left out of the spotlight, 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
1800DevismesJeanne-Hipplolyte 17651808ComposerPraxitèle, ou la ceinture Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1804BawrSophie17731860Composer-LibrettistLes chevaliers du lion 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)
1811BawrSophie17731860Composer-LibrettistLéon, ou le château de Montaldi Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1813Gail [Baptiste]Sophie17751819ComposerMademoiselle de Launay à la Bastille Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1813Gail [Baptiste]Sophie17751819ComposerLes deux jalouxLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1814Gail [Baptiste]Sophie17751819ComposerAngela, ou l'atelier de Jean Cousin Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1814Gail [Baptiste]Sophie17751819ComposerLa méprise Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1818Gail [Baptiste]Sophie17751819ComposerLa sirinade Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1818GaySophie17761852LibrettistLa sirinade Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1821GaySophie17761852LibrettistLe maitre de chapelle, ou le souper imprivu Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1823von ChézyHelmina17831856LibrettistEuryanthe [Music by Schubert]
1825BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistGuy Mannering Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1827BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistLe loup-garou Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1830RivayMme18??????Composer Maitre PalmaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1831BertinLouise18051877Composer-LibrettistFaustoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1836BertinLouise18051877ComposerLa EsmeraldaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1836GaySophie17761852LibrettistLe Chevalier de Canolle Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1836PugetLoïsa [Louise-Françoise]18101819ComposerLe mauvais oeilLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1841Pean de la Roche-JaguE. Françoise 18201871ComposerLe gabier d'Artimon Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1844Pean de la Roche-JaguE. Françoise 18201871ComposerGil Diaze 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)
1859GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLe sou de LiseLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1859DéjazetHermine18??????ComposerLe diable roseLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLa perruque de BailliLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistDieu le gardeLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1860Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistQuand Dieu est dans le ménage Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1862Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLe pays de CocagneLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1863GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLes fiancés de RosaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864Tarbé des SalonsMme18401875Composer I BataviLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLa comtesse EvaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1864Santa-Colona SourgetEugenie de18??????Composer L'imageLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Sabatier-BlotMme18??????Composer Un mariage par quidproquoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerDonna Maria Infante di SpagnaLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Perry-BiagioliAntoinette18??????Composer Les matelots de formidableLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1865Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistManetteLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1866Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLe sorcierLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867PaigneMme18????ComposerEnfermez-la! Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1867ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerTrop de femmesLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLa DryadeLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1867Perrière-PiltéAnaïs18361878Composer-LibrettistLes vacances de l'amourLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868Thys[Sébault, Pauline-Marie-Elisabeth]18361909Composer-LibrettistLe cabaret du pot casséLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerL'ogreLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1868GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerLa pénitenteLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1869PugetLoïsa [Louise-Françoise]18101819ComposerLa veilleuse, ou les nuits de milady Letzter & Adelson (2000)
1869GrandvalMarie [Félicie Clémence]18301907ComposerPiccolinoLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1869ViardotPauline [Michelle Ferdinandé, née Garcia]18211910ComposerLe dernier sorcierLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1870Tarbé des SalonsMme18401875Composer Les RoussalkasLetzter & Adelson (2000)
1876KrásnohorskáEliška18471926LibrettistThe Kiss (Hubička) [Music by Smetana]
1878KrásnohorskáEliška18471926LibrettistThe Secret (Tajemství) [Music by Smetana]
1881KrásnohorskáEliška18471926LibrettistBlaník [Music by Fibicha]
1882KrásnohorskáEliška18471926LibrettistThe Devil's Wall (Čertova stěna)
[Music by Smetana]
1882Červinková-RiegrováMarie18541898LibrettistDimitrij [Music by Antonín Dvořák]
1889Červinková-RiegrováMarie18541898LibrettistThe Jacobin (Jakobín) [Music by Antonín Dvořák]
1896SchulzováAnežka18681905LibrettistHedy [Music by Fibicha]
1897SchulzováAnežka18681905LibrettistŠárka [Music by Fibicha]
1900KrásnohorskáEliška18471926LibrettistViola [Music by Smetana, score unfinished]
1900SchulzováAnežka18681905LibrettistPád Arkuna [Music by Fibicha]

Drama that burns and music that sates.