Elena Langer studied piano and composition at the Moscow Conservatoire. In 1999 she moved to London, continuing her studies at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. She began writing operas while composer-in-residence at the Almeida Theatre. Her operatic and chamber works have been performed at Zurich Opera, Carnegie Hall, Grand Théâtre, Geneva, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre, Opéra National du Rhin and Welsh National Opera.
Her opera The Lion’s Face, written with Glyn Maxwell and directed by John Fulljames, toured England and Wales in 2010, including performances at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden. Her one-act comic opera Four Sisters, commissioned by Dawn Upshaw, was staged in 2012 at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, upstate New York. In December 2012 Songs at the Well, based on Russian folk texts, was dramatized by Dmitri Belyanushkin and staged at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow. In May 2013 her orchestration of César Cui’s 1913 opera Puss in Boots was performed at the Grand Théâtre, Geneva.
In 2014 Elena wrote the incidental music for David Eldridge’s play Holy Warriors at Shakespeare’s Globe. Her orchestral work Story of an Impossible Love, commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia, was performed in May 2016 in Cambridge and London, and subsequently in Calgary and Karlsruhe, conducted by Justin Brown.
Figaro Gets a Divorce, with a libretto by Sir David Pountney, was premiered in Cardiff in February 2016, with Justin Brown conducting, and subsequently toured around the UK. In 2017 Figaro was performed at the Teatr Wielki in Poznań and at the Grand Théâtre, Geneva, with a live stream on the Arte Channel in Switzerland.
In 2016, Harmonia Mundi released Landscape with Three People, a CD of Elena’s vocal and chamber works. The title piece is a song cycle for soprano, counter-tenor and baroque chamber ensemble based on the poems of Lee Harwood. The CD also contains Ariadne, Elena’s first collaboration with the poet Glyn Maxwell, as well as the light-hearted Cat Songs, settings of the absurdist poetry of Daniil Kharms.
A piano duet, RedMare, was commissioned for the 2017 London Piano Festival and performed there by Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva. Rhondda Rips It Up!, a music hall-style vaudeville celebrating the life of suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas starring Madeleine Shaw and Lesley Garrett, was premiered in Newport in May 2018 and toured to 16 venues across the UK. In March 2019, Boston Symphony Chamber Players performed Five Reflections on Water. Beauty and Sadness, an opera based on a novel by Yasunari Kawabata to a libretto by Sir David Pountney, was premiered in Hong Kong in April 2019 with Gergely Madaras conducting.
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev, premiered Elena’s orchestral suite from Figaro Gets a Divorce in January 2020. The suite will receive its UK première in Glasgow in February 2020 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gergely Madaras. Elena 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.