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.
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra commissioned Figaro Gets a Divorce, an orchestral suite based on music from the opera, which premiered in 2020 under Maxim Emelyanychev. Subsequently, the suite was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gergely Madaras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anna Rakitina and the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder. In November/December 2022 the suite will receive more performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, followed by performances and a broadcast by the Swedish Radio Orchestra. In 2023 the suite will have its Japanese premiere, performed by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
Elena is currently working on a new piece, The Dong with a Luminous Nose, setting the romantic "nonsense poem" by Edward Lear for chorus, orchestra and cello, a co-commission from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra, to be premiered in March 2023 at the Royal Festival Hall in London.