Peggy Glanville-Hicks was born Melbourne in 1912. At age 15 she began studying composition with Fritz Hart in Melbourne. She spent the years from 1931 to 1936 as a student at the Royal College of Music in London where she studied piano with Arthur Benjamin, conducting with Constant Lambert and Malcolm Sargent, and composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Her teachers also included Egon Wellesz. She later asserted that the idea which opens his fourth symphony was taken from her, and it reappears in her 1950s opera The Transposed Heads.
From 1949 to 1958 she served as a critic for the New York Herald Tribune. After leaving England, she lived in Greece from 1950 to 1976, and in the United States where she asked George Antheil to revise his Ballet Mécanique for a modern percussion ensemble for a concert she helped to organize before returning to Australia in the 1980s. She lost her sight in later life.
She died in Sydney in 1990. Her will established The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers' House in her home in Paddington, Sydney, as a residency for young Australian composers.
Major works in her output include the Sinfonia da Pacifica, Etruscan Concerto, Concerto romantico, and her Harp sonata which was premiered by Nicanor Zabaleta in 1953 as well as several operas. Her best known operas are The Transposed Heads and Nausicaa. The Transposed Heads is in six scenes with a libretto after Thomas Mann and premiered in Louisville, Kentucky on 27 March 1954.
Nausicaa was composed in 1956 and premiered in Athens in 1961. The libretto was prepared together with Robert Graves based on his novel Homer's Daughter.
Her last opera, Sappho, was composed in 1963 for the San Francisco Opera, with hopes that Maria Callas would sing the title role. However, the company rejected the work and it has never been produced.
Peggy Glanville-Hicks has provided a rather unusual opera based on the myth of Nausicaa and Ulysses. This is a live recording of the premier which took place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus of Athens in 1961. The sound is very good. Teresa Stratas is exceptional. John Modenos, George Moutsios and Mihalis Heliotis are also first-rate. The Athens State Orchestra is mediocre.
What an interesting idea for an opera! Nausicaa is based on the Robert Graves novel "Homer's Daughter," and he wrote the libretto. Peggy Glanville-Hicks was a very accomplished composer who is sadly not well represented in the CD catalogue. Prior to writing this opera, Ms. Glanville-Hicks lived in Athens in a house atop the Acropolis. She studied Greek folk music for two years before tackling the composing of this music.
The result is interesting indeed. It reminded me of Bamuel Barber's "Antony and Cleopatra" to a degree. The music and words are fitted to each other with graceful percision. However, there are no melodic arias. Teresa Stratas is wonderful as Nausicaa; her voice has a sweetness to it that was lost in her more mature singing years.
The sound is not bad for a live recording from 1961. If the subject interests you and you like 20th century opera, try this CD.
Scans tiffs & pdf booklet.