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Monday, 3 September 2018

Sappho, the Opera: Peggy Glanville-Hicks; Libretto, Lawrence Durrell

Sappho: an opera composed by internationally renowned Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Libretto by Lawrence Durrell, with original text by Sappho (circa 630BC)

Jennifer Condon brings Sappho to life (ABC interview, with recorded excerpts)

"Sappho, the last grand opera of Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-90), was written in her stone cottage on Mykonos in 1963. Never heard before this recording, Sappho reflects Glanville-Hicks' fascination with the orient and folk music, encapturing the colours of ancient Greece, with a heroic brass fanfare and epic writing for chorus, haunting woodwind solos and shimmering percussion evoking the stillness of crystal island waters. Deborah Polaski, who creates the role of the disenchanted Sappho, describes it as 'the kind of music that singers want to sing'. The libretto, based on Lawrence Durrell's verse-play, incorporates fragments of Sappho's own verse".

Deborah Polaski, soprano: Sappho
Martin Homrich, tenor: Phaon
Scott MacAllister, tenor: Pittakos
Roman Trekel, baritone: Diomedes
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone: Minos
Sir John Tomlinson, bass: Kreon
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano: Chloe/Priestess
Bettina Jensen, soprano: Joy
Maria Markina, mezzo soprano: Doris
Laurence Meikle, baritone Alexandrian
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

Thanks to Jeremy Eccles for the information about the recording, and about Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

The composer lived in Greece from 1957 to 1976.

About the opera Nausicaa

Lawrence Durrell, from Sappho, a play in verse, Scene I

A headland overlooking the fine bay of Eresos in Lesbos. Minos, the old tutor of Sappho, is seated upon a block of fallen marble gazing out at sea.

"Thank God we live here...
Lucky to sit alone up here each dawn...
In a Greek autumn on this headland.
("A world without people in it would be better.")
Yes, so it would by far. So it would."

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