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Year Composed: 


The opera Yerma is based on the play of the same name by Federico García Lorca.  Commissioned by John Blankenship of Sarah Lawrence College in 1955, it was written in Rio and Paris in 1955 and 1956. The score is dedicated to Hermenegilda Neves d'Almeida.

The best description of how Yerma came into being is included in Lisa M. Peppercorn's article "Villa-Lobos's Stage Works", Revue belge de Musicologie / Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Muziekwetenschap, Vol. 36, (1982 - 1984), pp. 175-184.  Peppercorn tells this complicated story in a very entertaining way.

You can download a new English translation of García Lorca's play by A.S. Kline.

"Yerma was dedicated to Villa-Lobos's mother-in-law, Hermenegilda Neves
 d'Almeida on, appropriately, Mothers' Day." - Simon Wright, from his programme note for the 1989 South Bank production.

The Blog da Presto has links to video from the entire production of Yerma at the Manaus Opera House.


Voice, chorus & orchestra (W528)

The version with a piano reduction has the Appleby catalogue # W592.


I haven't seen either the full score or a study score for sale or in any library catalogues.  The publisher is listed in VL: Sua Obra 1972 as Max Eschig.

The manuscripts of the full score (666 pp.) and piano-vocal reduction (284 pp.) are in the Museu Villa-Lobos.

Here is the first page of the score, from Blog da Presto:



There are no commercially available performances on CD.  You can buy the Santa Fe Opera performance from August 12, 1971 on disc from House of Opera online.   You can also download the 1983 Rio de Janeiro performance.


The premiere of Yerma had to wait until 1971, 12 years after Villa's death.  There were two performances by Santa Fe Opera: August 12 and 18, 1971.  There's a complete list of artists on the Santa Fe Opera website.

The European premiere of the work was in July 1989, when Odaline de la Martinez conducted the London Chamber Symphony, and Anna Steiger in the title role, in a staged concert performance at the South Bank's Latin American Festival.   Guy Rickards wrote a very favourable review in Tempo, September 1989, pp. 42-43.  As far as I know, there are no recordings of this performance floating around.  NEW: See this post at The Villa-Lobos Website.

I have heard a bootleg of a Brazilian performance from 1983, with Mário Tavares conducting soloists Gomes, Maresca, Staerke, and Barbosa, with the Orchestra, Chorus and Children's Chorus of the Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro.  This further emphasizes for me just how important this score is, and how well received it would be by today's Villa-friendly audiences.

Yerma posterOctober 23, 2008 Update: here is that very same performance, thanks to the Brazilian Concert Music blog.


Stage Works