Operas by women in twentieth century America
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While hundreds of operas were composed by American women during the twentieth century, very few people, even seasoned operatic performers and audiences, know of their existence. Most of these operas have not been performed beyond their regional or private premieres, and little is written about them in sources addressing the topics of women composers, twentieth century opera, or American opera. Therefore, those responsible for programming them in educational and professional opera companies have had limited exposure to these works. My focus is on ten composers and a total of nineteen of their operas, providing short biographies about these women (Joyce Barthelson, Mary E. Caldwell, Vivian Fine, Eleanor Everest Freer, Miriam Gideon, Libby Larsen, Mary Carr Moore, Julia Smith, Faye-Ellen Silverman, and Nancy Van de Vate) and entries for each of their featured works. These listings detail the resources required for programming the operas, such as the types of voices and instruments needed, as well as musical styles and salient features within the work. In addition to addressing the components of the operas as a whole, six arias extracted from the nineteen works are examined closely, illuminating common themes that unite these operas. Prejudices and stereotypes concerning the perceived inferiority of the creations of women composers have helped to keep these works unknown, but by making these operas more accessible, by analyzing their possible performance difficulties and by simply bringing these works into the light, it is hoped that they may have a greater chance of being performed and studied in the future.