Benjamin Britten

Michael Wilcox, Author Absolute Press $12.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-899791-60-6
The popular modern composer (1913-1976) of operas from Turn of the Screw to Death in Venice is given a title in the series of ""Outlines"" on the lives of gay and lesbian creators. Unlike a previous series volume, Peter Adam's solid memoir of his friend the painter David Hockney, this book seems all too lightweight, given the vast Britten bibliography already available. As its British title, Benjamin Britten's Operas, suggests, this is an opera-by-opera look at the composer's oeuvre with personal asides, mostly having to do with his sexuality. But here, Wilcox, a playwright and librettist, is almost totally dependent on other authors like Britten biographer Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Headington, who wrote about Britten's lover and lifelong companion, Peter Pears. Whether Britten was truly in a lifelong sexual relationship with Pears or used Pears in part as a mask for his true desire, fulfilled or not, for pre-pubescent boys, remains a mystery. Britten's anxiety as a homosexual, at a time when consenting sex between adult males was illegal in England, may have been worsened if indeed he was a sexually active pederast. A more truly searching and conclusive text, examining all the repercussions of Britten's personal life and his works, would need more original research and testimonies than this book offers. Readers would do better with the titles by Carpenter and Donald Mitchell or with David Herbert's valuable compilation of essays on the operas and their librettos, The Operas of Benjamin Britten. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next