BENJAMIN BRITTEN’S OPERAS
BENJAMIN BRITTEN’S OPERAS
DEATH – MARGINALITY – TRANSCENDANCE – LOVE DENIAL
On the basis of the very first steps in that project for Avignon’s University, I submit to discussion
the following notes. Britten sounds to me like a spiritual transcending chant
and song of death beyond life in the heart of life itself. That love, that life,
that transcendence is like the figure of the boy killed in Curlew River or some
other operas, since I will only deal with operas, including of course Death in
Venice, the perfect sacred garden and cemetery of Benjamin Britten, the
graveyard of his belief that life can only be in death, or if you prefer that
death can only exist in life.
Here are the operas I will consider after collecting them. Some are ballets,
some are vaudevilles, some are operettas, but all are about that strange
foreigner who is the only stranger in our life that counts: death, death our
friend, death our lover, death our life partner.
Thinking of it now, just at the beginning of this search and hunt, I feel death
is the most beautiful experience man can have, and that is not morbid because
any “Danse Macabre” is not a simple ordinary dance. It is a trance that leads
us to bliss and full mental orgasmic enjoyment.
One of my starting block is La Chaise Dieu’s Danse Macabre and I add to this
first lap my review of two books on this Danse Macabre.
is only the beginning of this research. Benjamin Britten is a phenomenal
composer and yet his works are scattered and there is no comprehensive
presentation of his music divided among various publishers or producers and
with repeats from one to the other and many works published separately. What I
am interested in is the figure of the stranger or the foreigner in his operas
and other stage productions. That leads to death most of the time, particularly
the death of young boys, or young men. This and the
Christian inspiration leads me to look into the way death was considered in the
past centuries, particularly in the Middle Ages and the 15th century, the
century when plague, war and economic collapse could have had unpredictable
consequences. I found a lot on this subject in the direct Benedictine heritage
in my corner of the world. A strong Christian presence can be seen in his
various productions, at times directly imported from the Bible with the theme
of being rejected for one reason or another, and also being forgiven or even
saved, be it only after death or after some martyrdom. This denial of love in
the midst of the assertion of love is poignant and disquieting. The full paper
is due for December and I have to explore some 18 works, whose list is provided
at the beginning. If you think I have missed one or two please let me know.