Schumann, Holmes & Smyth

A Lineage in Female Authorship

  • Sarah Elizabeth Smith BMus Music, The University of Edinburgh
Keywords: feminism, opera, clara schumann, augusta holmes, dame ethel smyth, sappho


This article looks at the relationship between Clara Schumann, Augusta Holmès, and Dame Ethel Smyth and how their knowledge of one another’s place in history informs our understanding of their compositional output. The canonic significance attributed to Clara Schumann and the idea of “the first woman to compose large symphonic works” will be discussed in relation to modern writings on female canons in creative writing. In addition, this essay will present an analysis of the feminist and political implications of Augusta Holmès’s opera La Montagne Noire and Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers. How Smyth and Holmès chose to depict the women in these operas will be examined against feminist musicological criticism of the genre and the composers’ own politics.