Name: Elena Langer
Place of birth: Moscow, Russia
Years active: 2002-date
Known for: Russian-born British composer of operas and other contemporary classical music
Langer’s professional career began in 2002 when she became the first Jerwood Composer in Association at London’s Almeida Theatre. She was commissioned to write two short operas, Ariadne (2002) and The Girl of Sand (2003), both with librettos by British poet Glyn Maxwell. The former premiered at the Almeida Opera Festival and won its composer her first award, the Priaulx Rainier Prize.
More works and awards followed. Langer’s 2010 opera The Lion’s Face – another collaboration with Maxwell – enjoyed a successful tour of England and Wales, including four performances at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. It also won the Argus Angel Award for artistic excellence at that year’s Brighton Festival. The work concerned the case of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
She was commissioned to write a sequel to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786) by Sir David Pountney in his capacity as chief executive and artistic director of the Welsh National Opera (WNO). With a libretto by Pountney himself, Figaro Gets a Divorce premiered on 21 February 2016 at WNO’s home venue, the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
A second WNO commission was Rhondda Rips It Up!, a cabaret-vaudeville hybrid about the Suffragette movement based on the life of Margaret Haig Thomas and starring Madeleine Shaw and Lesley Garrett. It premiered in Newport in May 2018 and toured to 16 venues across the UK.
Langer’s compositions aren’t limited to opera, also comprising short dramatic pieces, orchestral works and song cycles. RedMare is a piano duet commissioned for the 2017 London Piano Festival.
She is currently working on an opera based on Nikolai Erdman’s play The Suicide to be performed at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow in 2022.
Elena Langer was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1974. Her mother was a teacher of the solfege system of learning music and her father was a chemical scientist specialising in oil. At six years old she was attending both a general school and music school. At the latter she studied piano and singing.
At 15 she went to Moscow’s Gnessinsky Music College, where she studied piano and composition. This was followed by five years majoring in composition at the Moscow Conservatoire.
In 1995 she married Ukrainian Eugene Langer. In 1999 she moved to London, following her husband who had moved there two years previously for work. In London she studied at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. The couple has one son, born in 2004.
Did you know?
Her compositions Two Cat Songs for soprano, cello and piano were inspired by the unexpected visit of neighbouring felines, Sophie and Georgia, whose presence seemed to cure her then two-year-old son, who was very ill at the family home near Highgate.
This young composer is currently best known for her two WNO commissions, the comical Figaro Gets A Divorce and the vaudevillian Rhondda Rips It Up!
Russian-born composer Elena Langer is now based in London.