Tom Service names his top ten operas composed by women

Tom Service names his top ten operas composed by women
© Suzanne Jansen

‘Weir is one of the master music-dramatists of our time.’

Compositions by Judith Weir, Kaija Saariaho and Thea Musgrave have been included in an article written by Tom Service listing his top ten operas written by women. Writing for The Guardian to celebrate International Women’s Day, the broadcaster and journalist calls for audiences to demand more performances of operas written by female composers from the UK’s opera companies. Ranked among Service’s top ten is Blond Eckbert (Weir), L’amour de Loin (Saariaho) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Musgrave).

‘Saariaho’s three operas (so far) have become classics of the contemporary repertoire.’

Saariaho’s L’amour de Loin has received fantastic international reception with at least one production worldwide almost every year since its composition. A young troubadour becomes disenchanted with superficial pleasures of life and enraptured with a distant vision of pure love embodied by Clémence, the Countess of Tripoli. Although based on a medieval chivalry tale Saariaho’s score juxtaposes the narrative’s historic origins with an ethereal and sensuous modernity.

Judith Weir’s 1993 opera Blond Eckbert is based on a short story by Ludwig Tieck and blends fairy-tale with murder mystery as the audience follow the jealous impulses of Eckbert. At the time of its premiere The Sunday Telegraph described the score as ‘outstandingly graphic and expressive’, The Independent hailed it as ‘an accessible modern classic’ deserving of global recognition. Now, reflecting over twenty years on, Service hails her 75 min opera ‘an acme of her enigmatic music-drama’.

Tom Service suggests that Musgrave’s most powerful opera is perhaps a hidden gem within her catalogue. Her 1977 Mary, Queen of Scots for Scottish Opera has not enjoyed the same time as some others on his list; nevertheless, Service proclaims the ‘visceral’ communication of Musgrave’s substantial work, which follows Scotland’s iconic female leader through a number of dramatic events within court, as worthy of further UK and US attention and a place in the top listings of operas written by women.

All of the works mentioned above are published by and available to rent from Chester Music. To read Tom Service’s article in full, follow this link.

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