Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) English composer, today perhaps most famous for her opera The Wreckers (Standrecht). Another of her operas, Der Wald, is one of two operas ever to be played at the Met – this was in 1903. She seems to have been somewhat of a rebel – she begun a hunger strike in order to persuade her father to let her go to Leipzig to study composition (it worked), and she was very active in the suffrage movement (she is the composer of March of the Women). She often conducted her own works, and there is a hilarious story when she took the baton “thinking herself the Heaven-sent conductor she was not” from conductor Eugene Goossens who was scheduled to lead the premiere of her opera the Boatswine’s mate. She was also seen conducting, with a toothbrush, the inmates in choir when she was herself imprisoned for activism and vandalism.
It was during her time in Leipzig that her larger works were first performed which gave her some standing as composer in Germany. She however spent most of her career in England.
In 1922 she was awarded her damehood for her contributions as composer. In her 50s she lost her hearing, and instead started writing. A truly colourful person, worth reading more about!
Mass in D for soloists, choir, orchestra and organ
Notoriously difficult Concerto for violin, horn and orchestra
Serenade in D in four movements for orchestra
Four songs for mezzo and chamber ensemble
String quartet in e minor