An opera in twenty-five scenes requiring a minimum of two alternating sets. All major characters are non-singing actors. Major musical forces are a double SATB chorus and an orchestra of 3 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, hautboys, 3 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 bass tuba, 1 harp, timpani, violins, violas, cellos and double basses.

The libretto is based on the legend of the Messenian king, Aristodemus (reigned 731–724 BC). According to J. Lempriere’s A Classical Dictionary (London, 1860), this king conducted a successful campaign against Sparta during which the proud Spartan women were prostituted as part of the policy of conquest. When Aristodemus found his own unmarried daughter with child, however, with clear double standards, his rage was turned against the girl, whom he murdered. Thereafter the king was haunted by visions of his daughter’s long hair, the symbol of womanhood. He commits suicide, leaving a bloody war behind him as his only heir. G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall’s version of this story is much more complex.

Synopsis: The virgins of Sparta, coming to worship before the shrine of Artemis, are raped by the Messenian youths. Out of shame the maids commit mass suicide by slitting open their veins. King Teleklus, hearing their cries, attempts to rescue them but is killed by Artander. As he lies dying, the King grasps the feet of the statue of the goddess and begs retribution. In reply Artemis sends pestilence and death to the Messenian youths and war to Sparta. The Messenian king, Aristodemus, is forced to retreat with the remnants of his army to the citadel of Ithome. Artemis pursues him, predicting that to appease her Aristodemus will sacrifice his daughter in vain, that all his house will die as suicides and that his subjects will be forced from the land or given into slavery.

Tisis, son of Alcis, is sent by Aristodemus to the Pythian Apollo at Delphi to ask how the anger of Artemis should be appeased. Apollo answers that a virgin of the blood of Aephytus was to be elected from the descendants of Herakles and sacrificed to Artemis. If no‑one of that clan could be found then a maiden of another race could be substituted, but only with the consent of her father. The lot falls on the daughter of Lyciscus. Ophineus, a blind sage tries to warn Aristodemus that the oracle has deceived him and the elected virgin is not a descendant of Herakles. Aristodemus refuses to listen. Apollo restores Ophineus’s sight and sends the sage into a frenzied trance during which he sees a vision of the deaths of the King and Queen. A guard finds Lyciscus and his daughter have escaped, leaving a message with a slave that the girl was adopted and Lyciscus therefore was not free to give her in sacrifice. Aristodemus’s daughter, Taira proudly offers herself as a replacement since she is of the blood of Herakles and her paternity certain. A messenger brings news of disaster on the nearby battlefield and Aristodemus steels himself to the death of his child whose life must be sacrificed by his own hand as chief priest of his people.

Damis, who is betrothed to Taira, accuses Aristodemus of being deceived by the oracle and thus the murderer of his own child. He claims she is no virgin but already pregnant to him and the sacrifice has been in vain. Aristodemus rushes to the altar of Artemis where Taira is preparing for her death. The King takes the girl by the hair, and shouting ‘liar’ cuts her throat, splits open her belly and demands that all should look on her innocence. Aristodemus is told by Ophineus that the sacrifice is not acceptable to the goddess. Aristodemus prays for a sign to contradict the sage but the shield of Artemis falls and shatters on the shrine’s floor and the palace doors clash in a sudden burst of lightning and thunder. The Queens hangs herself. Aristodemus, on finding her, orders three perfumed litters to be placed before the shrine. He lays out the bodies of mother and daughter on either side of the empty central bier and goes to meet the enemy at the city gates. There he tells the people to abandon the land and take ship to safety. He then returns to the shrine of Artemis and commits suicide. He is found there by the Spartans who see the vision of Ophineus of the three funeral biers and the three furies standing by each, one with a knife, one with a halter and one with a sword.


The archive consists of:

  • M‑H 1/2‑1—Full score.
  • M‑H 1/2‑2—Piano and vocal score.
  • M‑H 1/2‑3—Second piano and vocal score.
  • M‑H 1/2‑4—Printed choral score of Act I Scene II.
  • M‑H 1/2‑5—Published libretto in English.
  • M‑H 1/2‑6—German libretto.

M‑H 1/2‑1

Full score of Aristodemus. Calf bound. Composer’s autograph. 27.5cm x 35cm x 5.25cm. The front and back covers are tooled at the edges in black patterns and with the title ‘Aristodemus’ also in black tooling in a design on the front cover only. Black inked score except for Scene XX which is in blue ink. The first recto is inscribed ‘G.W.L. Marshall-Hall, Melbourne c/o Fischer‑Sobel [sic] , 1 Harley Rd., Swiss Cottage N.W.’ in the composer’s hand. The second recto holds the top page of a published libretto reading: ‘Aristodemus. A Tragedy by G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall. “Alle Schuld racht sich auf Erden”—Goethe.’ The libretto is, therefore, by the composer. The second verso holds a page from a published libretto reading:

‘Aristodemus. Characters:
Aristodemus, King of Messenia
His Queen
Taira, his Daughter
Ophioneus, a soothsayer, blind
Damis, a youth betrothed to Taira
A Boy
Chorus of Messenian women and old men
Soldiers, attendants, etc
Tisis, Bearer of the Oracle
The Scene is laid before the Palace of the King of Ithome.’

Only the members of the Chorus of Messenian women and old men are required to sing. The score reveals that this list of characters does not indicate singers but actors who are required to declaim extensive poetic passages throughout with orchestral accompaniment.

The final occupied page (p.528) is signed and dated: ‘Aug 11th 1902. G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall.’ The score consists of 528 paginations and eight blank leaves of score paper. There are three frontpapers, as described above, and two blank endpages. 20-stave score paper, imprinted ‘B.C.’ on a bar across a lyre emblem, underwritten ‘No.6.’ No orchestral parts are present in this collection, but the instrumentation indicated by this score is for: 3 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes (with Hb, p.14, and Hob., p.16, indicating the use of the hautboy after the opening scene), 3 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 bass tuba, harp timpani, violins, violas, cellos, double basses.

Note: the University of Melbourne holds the library of the Royal Victorian Liedertafel. This contains an uncatalogued holding of 125 printed copies of the chorus: ‘Honour the mighty Father’ from Scene V of Aristodemus and the orchestral parts to the same chorus consisting of 6 first violin parts, 6 second violin, 3 viola, 2 cellos, 2 double basses, a combined part for first and second flute, another for third flute and piccolo, a clarinet part, a harp part, and single parts for bass clarinet, for 4 horns in two divisions, bass tuba, bassoon, contra bassoon, a fourth horn together with a third bassoon, an oboe, two trumpets together and a third separate, two trombones, a bass trombone and timpani.

The work is divided into 25 scenes, 20 marked in red ink and roman numerals as:

  1. Scene 1—pp.1–26
  2. Scene 2—pp.27–83
  3. Scene 3—pp.84–86
  4. Scene 4—pp.87–100
  5. Scene 5—pp.101–164
  6. Scene 6—pp.165–166
  7. Scene 7—pp.167–177
  8. Scene 8—pp.177–199
  9. Scene 9—pp.200–227
  10. Scene 10—pp.228–232
  11. Scene 11—pp.233–248
  12. Scene 12—pp.249–250
  13. Scene 13—pp.251–263
  14. Scene 14—pp.265–289
  15. Scene 15—pp.289–303
  16. Scene 16—pp.305–375
  17. Scene 17—p.376
  18. Scene 18—pp.377–444 (4 blank pages occur)
  19. Scene 19—pp. missing from the numbering
  20. Scene 20—pp.449–493
  21. Scene 21—p.493
  22. Scene 22—p.494
  23. Scene 23—pp.495–511
  24. Scene 24—pp.514–523
  25. Scene 25—pp.524–528

M-H 1/2‑2

A piano and vocal score of the opera Aristodemus. Off‑white linen bound. Black inked score. 24cm x 27cm x 3cm. There are four frontpages. The first recto is inscribed ‘G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall. Conservatorium of Music. Melbourne. Victoria.’ The second recto holds the first page of a printed libretto as for M‑H 1/1‑1 (full score). The second verso holds the printed cast list as in M-H 1/1‑1 and of the same origin as M-H 1/2‑5. There are four endpages, the first recto holding an Index of 25 scenes and their definition and pagination viz:

Scene I.          Artemis. p.3
Scene II.         Hymn to Artemis. Chorus. p.13
Scene III.        Entrance of Aristodemus. p.50
Scene IV. Entrance of Tisio. p.52
Scene V.        Chorus. The birth of Hercules. p.60
Scene VI.       Entrance of the Queen. p.105
Scene VII.      Entrance of Taira. p.106
Scene VIII. March. p.112
The sacrifice. p.116
Scene IX.       Entrance of Ophioneus. p.119
Ophioneus’s frenzy. p.120
Scene X.        Chorus. ‘Words of madness’ etc. p.131
Scene XI. Entrance of guard. p.134
Taira’s self‑sacrifice. p.136
Chorus ‘Soundless are the feet.’ p.141
Sceno XII.      Entrance of Messenger. p.144
Scene XIII.     Farewell of Taira. p.145
Scene XIV. Chorus. ‘The Lament.’ p.151
Scene XV.      Entrance of Damis. p.165
Scene XVI.     Chorus. ‘Agamemnon’s sacrifice’ [sic]. p.170
Scene XVII.    Messenger. Death of Taira. p.221
Scene XVIII.   Curse of Ophioneus (Shield scene). p.222
Scene XIX. Chorus. ‘Thou that dwellest’ etc. p.229
Scene XX.      Chorus. ‘The Fall of Ilium.’ p.255
Scene XXI.     Messenger, Death of the Queen etc. p.278
Scene XXII.    Guard. Fall of Ithome etc. p.279
Scene XXIII.   Death of Aristodemus. p.280
Scene XXIV.   Chorus. ‘Behold! Behold!’ p.286
Scene XXV.    The vengeance of Artemis [sic]. p.297.’

There are 298 pencilled paginations. The pages have originally been numbered in another order and replaced throughout. This may have been done to allow for the addition of pp.13–54 which are on smaller paper than that of the general score. 12-stave score paper imprinted ‘Bell Brand No. 3’ with emblem of four bells and tie, the bells marked ‘A & Co M’ (i.e., Allan and Company, Melbourne). The additional smaller pages (pp.13–54) are 12-stave and of the same imprint, but size No.1. These hold Scene 11. The libretto is partly written over the piano scoring for the actors, and partly consists of pasted-in extracts from a printed libretto.

M-H 1/2‑3

Piano and vocal score of Aristodemus. Bound in off‑white linen. Black inked. 27cm x 3cm x 3cm. The front cover is inscribed in black within a design in the upper left corner: ‘Aristodemus.’ 4 front pages. The second recto and verso contain pasted-in title page and character list from a printed libretto, as in M‑H 1/1‑5. 298 paginations on the recto with verso implied. Pencil. 12-stave score paper imprinted ‘Bell Brand No.3’, with the emblem as for M-H 1/2‑2. The published libretto is pasted in at entries throughout for the actors but is otherwise handwritten for the chorus. Occasional handwritten words also occur for the actors. The choral areas are also given a German libretto written above the English.

M-H 1/2‑4

Printed choral score for Act I, Scene II, of Aristodemus. The chorus begins: ‘Woe! Woe! Woe unto us.’ 13 paginations. The endpage is blank. 12-stave music score paper in 4-line accolades. No imprint.

M-H 1/2-5

Published libretto of Aristodemus inscribed as being by G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall. Orange-pink covers of soft paper. 47 pages holding 25 scenes. 18.5cm x 24.75cm x lcm. Printed by the Atlas Press, Block Place, Little Collins St, Melbourne. The text is substantially the same as that used throughout the full score and the vocal scores.

M-H 1/2‑6

Handwritten German libretto for Aristodemus. An exercise book with red marbled hard cover, labelled on the front: ‘Aristodemus in German.’ 63 paginations of blue-lined white exercise paper with one third of the volume blank. A translation from the English by M‑H. Two loose leaves at p.21 containing verses in English. On biscuit-coloured exercise paper, blue lined. 25 scenes marked. Appears to be in M-H’s hand, but the loose leaves are in another hand.