Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Olivieri fascism Italy Respighi feminist aesthetics Gregorian Mexican music history opera

Major Advisor

Eric Rice

Associate Advisor

Alain Frogley

Associate Advisor

Glenn Stanley

Associate Advisor

Ronald Squibbs

Associate Advisor

Alexis Boylan and Liane Curtis

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo (1894–1996) was an Italian pianist, singer, and composer. She composed several works for voice and piano early in life that were published by Casa Ricordi in Milan, but she ultimately put her creative aspirations aside for the opportunity to become the housewife and assistant of her composition teacher, the celebrated composer Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936). The marriage provided Olivieri with connections and performance opportunities that continued to benefit her during the sixty years she lived as a widow. After Respighi’s death, she returned briefly to composition as a means of catharsis, composing both small and large-scale works—including two completed operas that remain unpublished and unperformed. Olivieri’s unique musical style was, in part, a product of her Mexican heritage and her position as a woman and wife living in fascist Italy. Important style traits in her music include nuanced exoticism, references to folk songs and Gregorian melodies, and complex realizations of female characters. As part of feminist musicology’s larger endeavor to create a historical context for women composers, this research provides a new avenue for understanding historical women as autonomous people who acted in their own best interests and discovered ways to succeed and contribute to their art through mechanisms that may have been overlooked or minimized by previous scholars. This project is the most comprehensive English source on Olivieri to date; it includes an updated catalog of her works and translations of key passages of non- English writings by and about her. It examines Olivieri’s life and representative works, considers new avenues for understanding aesthetics of identity and difference, and explores the collaborations and mutual influence of Olivieri and Respighi, in the context of a marriage of two artists, living in fascist Italy, who both respected and depended on each other.