Edward Elgar’s Unfinished Opera ‘The Spanish Lady’

The legendary composer almost finished his one and only opera 'The Spanish Lady.'

We know the Enigma Variations. We know the Cello and Violin Concertos. We know his symphonic works.

But we never got to hear a full opera from Edward Elgar, born on June 2, 1857—though this wasn’t due to lack of effort. The legendary English composer did actually get close to his one and only opera, but death took him too soon.

Elgar’s opera was supposed to be “The Spanish Woman,” based on “The Devil Is an Ass,” a play by Ben Jonson.

Ultimately, Elgar’s work on the opera included just a few sketches that were little more than reworkings of earlier pieces such as unused material from oratorios and The Crown of India Suite. He did, however, manage to get very close to completing the libretto, which would be quite useful later on when Dr. Percy Young took over the work, arranged it, and orchestrated it. The result was a 45-minute work.

Fortunately, there are opportunities to get a look at Elgar’s intentions for what would have been his one and only opera. Dr. Young’s arrangement was eventually recorded and issued with the Oct. 1995 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

You can check out a recording of the suite for strings based on the composer’s work for the opera below:

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About the Author

David Salazar
Prior to creating OperaWire, DAVID SALAZAR, (Editor-in-Chief) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he interviewed major opera stars including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Vittorio Grigolo, Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazon among others. His 2014 interview with opera star Kristine Opolais was cited in a New York Times Review. He also had the opportunity of interviewing numerous Oscar nominees, Golden Globe winners and film industry giants such as Guillermo del Toro, Oscar Isaac and John Leguizamo among others. David holds a Masters in Media Management from Fordham University. During his time at Fordham, he studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Poland. He also holds a dual bachelor’s from Hofstra University in Film Production and Journalism.

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