Hugo Shirley was born and educated in the West of England before he moved to London to study German and Music at King's College, where he also completed a Master's in Historical Musicology. He subsequently spent two years working as a translator in Vienna, before returning to King's for his PhD, which was supervised by John Deathridge and Roger Parker, and awarded in early 2011.
His thesis was an attempt to reposition Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten as the pinnacle of the collaboration between both men, whilst examing it critically within the discourses of modernism as a work that necessarily heralded the collaboration's decline. Part of his research formed the basis of a feature in Opera magazine, which appeared in July 2011, and he is further adapting sections of the thesis for publication in academic journals. New avenues of research include an examination of the questions of ideology and musical ontology raised by early studio recordings of Wagner's Ring cycle, as well a broader exploration of trends in opera in the internet age.
He has published in Music & Letters and The Wagner Journal and will, from September 2011, be an Early Career Research Associate at the University of London's Institute of Musical Research. Beyond the walls of academia he writes widely on music and opera, is a regular contributor to Opera magazine and The Daily Telegraph and publishes further reviews and reflections on his blog, Fatal Conclusions.