Seeks to “identify the creative links between [Britten’s] music and biographical or psychological factors, in order to uncover the personal narrative encoded within the operatic narrative, and to demonstrate that, for Britten, opera was the natural medium through which to explore and express his private concerns” (1). Seymour, Claire. The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2004. Print.
Two Themes in Britten’s Life and in His Operas: * The Outsider who, voluntarily or involuntarily, stands on the fringes of society. * The Person who experiences or represents a loss of innocence.
Benjamin Britten, the youngest of four children, and at the piano as a young boy
Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in 1940 and 1975
The Queen at Snape Maltings Concert Hall in 1967 and 1970
Paul Bunyan, 1941 Operetta Libretto by W.H. Auden Premiered at Columbia University, New York City
Peter Grimes Grand Opera libretto by Montagu Slater based on George Crabbe’s poem The Borough (1810) premiered at Covent Garden, London, 1945 Aldeburgh Festival, outdoor performance
The Rape of Lucretia Chamber Opera Libretto by Ronald Duncan Premiered at Glyndebourne, 1946 Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY
Albert Herring Comic Chamber Opera Libretto by Eric Crozer after a short story by Guy de Maupassant Premiered at Glyndebourne, 1947 Los Angeles Opera
The Little Sweep Children’s Opera Libretto by Eric Crozier Premiered at Aldeburgh Festival, 1949
Billy Budd Grand Opera Libretto by E.M.Forster and Eric Crozier after novella Billy Budd, Foretopman by Herman Melville (1891) Premiered at Covent Garden, London, 1951 Metropolitan Opera, NY
Gloriana Grand Opera Libretto by William Plomer after Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex (1928) Premiered at Covent Garden, London, 1953 Written in celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II Opera Theater of St. Louis
The Turn of the Screw Chamber Opera Libretto by Myfanwy Piper after the short story by Henry James (1898) Premiered at La Fenice, Venice, 1954 Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv
Noye’s Fludde Church Opera Libretto from the Medieval Mystery Play of the same name. Premiered at Orford Church, Suffolk, 1958 Moonrise Kingdom (movie), Wes Anderson, director
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Grand Opera Libretto by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears based on the play by Wm. Shakespeare Premiered at Aldeburgh Festival, 1960 Chicago Lyric Opera
Curlew River Church Parable Libretto by William Plomer after the medieval Japanese Noh play Sumidagawa by Juro Motomasa (1395-1431) Premiered at Orford Church, Suffolk, 1964 Royal Academy Opera
The Burning Fiery Furnace Church Parable Libretto by William Plomer based on the Book of Daniel, Chapter 3 Premiered at Orford Church, Suffolk, 1966
The Prodigal Son Church Parable Libretto by William Plomer based on the New Testament Parable, Luke 15:11-32 Premiered at Orford Church, Suffolk, 1968 Aldeburgh Festival
Owen Wingrave Television Opera Libretto by Myfanwy Piper after the short story by Henry James (1892) Premiered on BBC2 Television, 1971 Opera Trionfo
Death in Venice Grand Opera Libretto by Myfanwy Piper after Thomas Mann’s novella Premiered at Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Festival, 1973 English National Opera
Grand Opera: Peter Grimes (1945) Billy Budd (1951) Gloriana (1953) A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1960) Death in Venice (1973) Chamber Opera: The Rape of Lucretia (1946) Albert Herring (1947) The Turn of the Screw (1954) Operetta : Paul Bunyan (1941) Church Opera: Noye’s Fludde (1958) Church Parables Curlew River (1964) The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966) The Prodigal Son (1968) Children’s Opera The Little Sweep (1949) Television Opera Owen Wingrave (1971)
Peter Grimes Act II, Scene 1 – “Grimes is at his exercise”
Peter Grimes as the Outsider Peter Grimes (Peter Pears) and the apprentice (Leonard Thompson) in the 1945 Sadler’s Wells production of Peter Grimes.
Benjamin Britten … “A central feeling for us [in Peter Grimes] was that of the individual against the crowd; with ironic overtones of our own situation. As conscientious objectors we were out of it … this feeling led us to make Grimes a character of vision and conflict, the tortured idealist he is, rather than the villain he is in Crabbe” (74). Seymour, Claire. The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2004. Print.
Text for chorus at end of Act III:1 Who holds himself apart Lets his pride rise. Him who despises us We’ll destroy. And cruelty becomes His enterprise. Him who despises us We’ll destroy. Our curse shall fall upon his evil day. We shall Tame his arrogance. We’ll make the murderer pay for his crime. Peter Grimes! Grimes!
Peter Grimes, Act III, Scene 1 Royal Opera, Covent Garden
Peter Pears … “For Ben, [Death in Venice] was, in some way, a summing up of what he felt, inspired even by the memories of his own idyllic childhood … At the end Aschenbach asks what it is he has spent his life searching for. Knowledge? A lost innocence? And must the pursuit of beauty, of love, lead only to chaos? All question Ben constantly asked himself” (101). Kennedy, Michael. Benjamin Britten. London: Dent, 1981/1993. Print.
Thomas Mann in 1911, aged 36, the year he published Death in Venice.
Apollo and Dionysus rational emotional knowledge intuition limits no limits individual group moderation excess clear borders no borders dreams ecstasy self-control frenzy temperance intoxication order chaos native foreign West East male female /androgynous
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