Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Nausicaa (1961) Scenes from the opera in three acts
 Teresa Stratas; Athens Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Carlos Surinach
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Glanville-Hicks studied with a very diverse range of composers: Fritz Hart (now when are we going to hear revivals of his music?), Vaughan Williams, Wellesz and Boulanger.

She was born in Melbourne, Australia and lived a nomadic existence from London, Vienna, Paris, New York, Greece and finally Sydney. For some years she was married to that enigmatic English composer, Stanley Bate whose Third Symphony is long overdue a recording.

Of all these composers it was ultimately Vaughan Williams' modalism that gained the day but she was no mere epigone as her style was heavily influenced by Moorish and Greek scales and metres.

Nausicaa is a dramatic work. Heard without foreknowledge you might take it as a lost opera by Miklos Rozsa written while he was at work on his film scores for Ben Hur or El Cid. Then again you might wonder if this was a project discarded by either William Walton (Troilus and Cressida) or Samuel Barber (Antony and Cleopatra). It has stylistic parallels with both works leaning marginally more towards Barber than Walton though standing clear of Barber's voluptuous climactic tendencies.

The plot is involved. It is based on Robert Graves' novel 'Homer's Daughter'. The Homeric story is given various new twists and turns. Penelope and Nausicaa become a single character {- the Princess Nausicaa who is also portrayed as the author of the Odyssey. Odysseus becomes Aethon. The climax is one we recognise with an archery contest that turns into the slaughter of Nausicaa's importunate suitors. The plot has many more twists and surprising turns.

The disc which preserves substantial extracts from the world premiere in Athens in 1961 is extremely well presented. There is plenty of background and the whole libretto is given, not just the sung and performed extracts. The selection of sections works well. Despite a sizeable Greek contingent the accents do not unduly mask the sung language.

Although there are arias the music tends towards recitative and story-telling. The Athens orchestra is stridently preserved (the recording is almost forty years old) but nothing unduly to concern.

If you were to sample a single track let me point you towards track 6 which includes an affecting and passionate duet between Aethon (John Modenos, baritone) and Nausicaa (Teresa Stratas, soprano, very early in her career). The duet instantly recalled, for me, the ecstatic Aphrodite duet from Troilus and Cressida.

The music tends away from harmony and avoids complexity. The ideas are powerfully put across and when presented so starkly, without much in the way of harmonic 'dressing', it is a tribute that they hold the attention so well. There are some moments of grandeur not least in the great choruses using tunes which I associate with Greek folk music in much the same way as the tunes used in the (recently recorded) Cretan songs of Donald Swann.

Operatic buffs need this disc in their collection as do Stratas collectors. We can only hope that Glanville-Hicks' still unperformed opera Sappho (written for Callas) will attract the attention of a conductor and funding body.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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