Elena Langer

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Elena Langer (born Moscow, 1974) is a Russian-born British composer of operas and other contemporary classical music. Her work has been performed at the Royal Opera House, Zurich Opera, Carnegie Hall, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre. She studied piano and composition at the Gnessin School in Moscow and composition at the Moscow Conservatoire; in 1999 she moved to London and studied composition at the Royal College of Music (1999–2000) with Julian Anderson and the Royal Academy of Music (2001–03) with Simon Bainbridge.


In 2002 Langer became the first Jerwood Composer in Association at the Almeida Theatre in London,[1] writing the short operas Ariadne (premiered at the Almeida Opera Festival in 2002) and The Girl of Sand (2003), both settings of librettos by poet Glyn Maxwell. Ariadne was further performed at the Tanglewood Festival and the Britten and Strauss Festival in Aldeburgh in 2009, as well as at the Moscow Conservatoire.

In 2009 her song cycle Songs at the Well, based on Russian folk texts, was performed at the Carnegie Hall, New York.

Her next collaboration with Maxwell, a short dramatic piece called The Present, won the Audience Prize at the Zurich Opera House's New Opera Festival in January 2009. The work concerned the case of a patient suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Langer and Maxwell went on to develop this into the opera The Lion's Face,[2][3][4] which enjoyed a successful tour around England and Wales[5][6] (including 4 performances at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) in a production by John Fulljames for The Opera Group.[7] This work also initiated an ongoing collaboration between The Opera Group and the Institute of Psychiatry, and involved Professor Simon Lovestone, director of the Institute's Biomedical Research Centre, in a consultant role.

Langer was subsequently commissioned by Dawn Upshaw to compose a one-act comic opera for performance at Bard College in upstate New York. The resulting work, Four Sisters, to a libretto by John Lloyd-Davies, was performed in March 2012 at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College.[8]

In December 2012 Songs at the Well, with additional newly composed music, was dramatised by Dmitri Belyanushkin and staged at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre, in a double-bill with Lera Auerbach's The Blind.

In 2012/2013, using the surviving vocal score, Langer re-orchestrated César Cui's 1913 opera Puss in Boots (Кот в сапогах) for the Grand Théâtre de Genève, for performance in May 2013.

Current work in progress includes a song cycle for Concerts at Cratfield (to be performed in August 2013) based on the poems of Lee Harwood.[9] Langer is also working on a piece for string quartet and Russian "kolesnaya lira" (hurdy-gurdy) for the Kronos Quartet, to be premiered at the Théâtre de la Ville in May 2014.

Her opera Figaro Gets a Divorce is to be premiered at the Welsh National Opera in February 2016.[10]


  • Priaulx Rainier Prize for Ariadne, 2003
  • OperaGenesis Prize for The Umbrella, 2004
  • TeatroMinimo Award for The Present, 2007
  • Zurich Opera Audience Prize for The Present, 2009
  • Argus Angel Award for artistic excellence, Brighton Festival, for The Lion's Face, 2010

Selected works[edit]

  • Transformations for violin and piano, 1996
  • The Prayer for violin and Jewish male choir, 1999
  • Havdala for Jewish male choir, 1999
  • Triste Voce for viola solo, 2001
  • Platch for violin and string orchestra, 2001[11]
  • Ariadne, mono-opera, 2002
  • The Girl of Sand, opera, 2003
  • Two Cat Songs after Daniil Kharms for soprano, cello and piano, 2006
  • The Evening Flower for two guitars, 2006
  • Second Movement for oboe, violin and string orchestra, 2008
  • Songs at the Well, song-cycle for soprano and orchestra, 2009
  • The Lion's Face, opera, 2010
  • Four Sisters, opera, 2012
  • Songs at the Well (expanded), song cycle for singers and orchestra, 2012
  • Landscape with Three People, songs for soprano, counter-tenor and baroque ensemble, 2013[12]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Billington, Michael (15 February 2002). "Sound and Vision". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ Gardiner, Jasmine (21 July 2010). "Memories are made of this: How Alzheimer's inspired an opera". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  3. ^ Fuller, David (Autumn 2011). "Dementia at the Opera: The Lion's Face" (PDF). The Opera Quarterly. 27 (4): 509–521. doi:10.1093/oq/kbs032. PMC 4451589. PMID 26045634. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  4. ^ Thicknesse, Robert (15 May 2010). "Slow dissolve". The Tablet. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  5. ^ Morrison, Richard (24 May 2010). "The Lion's Face at the Theatre Royal, Brighton". The Times. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  6. ^ Walsh, Stephen. "The Lion's Face, Opera Group". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Music meets science in a new opera". The Opera Group. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  8. ^ Bard College. "World premiere of commissioned opera by Elena Langer". The Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Baroque and contemporary cantatas and sonatas". Concerts at Cratfield. Archived from the original on 23 April 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  10. ^ "Figaro Gets a Divorce", Welsh National Opera website, accessed 19 March 2015.
  11. ^ Recorded by Roman Mints and released on CD Quartz ROVI ID, MQ0001131797
  12. ^ Recorded by Anna Dennis William Towers Nicholas Daniel and released on harmonia mundi February 2016