Remembering Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

English composer Benjamin Britten was born 100 years ago this month, and much of the opera world has been celebrating his many vocal works, with their themes of corruption, power and societal outsiders.

This week's show considers Britten's complex legacy with guests including tenor Nicholas Phan, soprano Susanna Phillips and Richard Jarman of the Britten-Pears Foundation.

In an era when more and more places are issuing licenses for gay marriage, the relationship between Britten and his partner, English tenor Peter Pears, might seem pretty unremarkable. But in mid-20th century England, it was a completely different story. We ask Jarman about their musical and personal collaboration, and talk with Phan about the appeal of Britten, and how the composer's homosexuality explains part of his appeal.

Also: Marilyn Horne sang the role of Hermia in the American premiere of Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She recalls meeting the composer and Pears after a performance ("he seemed like a gentle man"). Plus, we unpack some of Britten's great operas including Albert Herring and Peter Grimes.

Below: Nicholas Phan sings Britten in the WQXR Cafe: 

Comments [1]

Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

The partnership of Britten and Pears resulted in a number of works written specifically for Pears,headlined by the tenor's towering portrayals of Peter Grimes and Captain Vere.Other works,including the Serenade for Tenor,Horn,and Strings solidified this pair's place in music history.Ignorance and homophobia were commonplace during their relationship,and judging by some of the unfortunate comments offered in the discussions concerning the Gergiev protests,persist to this day.

Nov. 30 2013 01:23 AM

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