Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts


Over the past ten years there has been a considerable amount of renewed interest in the life and work of Australian-born composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks who wrote five operas and a substantial body of chamber music. Although most of her career as a composer was accomplished abroad, her works were a significant contribution to the development of Australian opera. There is a growing body of literature written about Peggy Glanville-Hicks, but nothing substantial has been written about her last great work, Sappho. The purpose of this minor thesis, therefore, is to examine this last grand, yet unperformed opera. This thesis will present the composer’s background, musical training and her philosophies on music and give an overview of her musical style. It will include a descriptive analysis of Sappho paying particular attention to the use of instrumentation, vocal writing and dramatic content. Transcripts of correspondence between the composer and her contemporaries will expose the reasons for the opera never having been performed. Sappho will be placed in the context of her other works, particularly the operas The Transposed Heads and Nausicaa. This will serve to show Glanville-Hicks’ maturity and ability as an opera composer who was able to integrate her own unique style with the traditions of grand opera. Perhaps most importantly, it is hoped that this research will assist with the regeneration of interest in this fascinating composer’s last major work, which in turn may lead to a performing edition of Sappho and ultimately public performances.

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