Pauline Viardot (July 18, 1821 – May 18, 1910) was a leading nineteenth-century French mezzo-soprano, pedagogue, and composer of Spanish descent.
Viardot began composing when she was young, but it was never her intention to become a composer. Her compositions were written mainly as private pieces for her students with the intention of developing their vocal abilities.
Viardot did the bulk of her composing after her retirement at Baden-Baden. However, her works were of professional quality and Franz Liszt declared that, with Pauline Viardot, the world had finally found a woman composer of genius. As a young girl she had studied with the musical theorist and composer, Anton Reicha, she was an outstanding pianist, and a complete all-round professional musician.
Between 1864 and 1874 she wrote three salon operas – Trop de femmes (1867), L’ogre (1868), and Le dernier sorcier (1869), all to libretti by Ivan Turgenev – and over fifty lieder. Her remaining two salon operas – Le conte de fées (1879), and Cendrillon (1904; when she was 83) – were to her own libretti. The operas may be small in scale, however, they were written for advanced singers and some of the music is difficult. She also wrote instrumental compositions, often for violin and piano. Among her arrangements are vocal arrangements of instrumental works by Chopin, Brahms, Haydn and Schubert.