Women in Postwar Britten

Britten on Aldeburgh beach, 1959 (Britten-Pears Foundation)

At Utrecht University last week I delivered the latest version of a developing paper on Britten’s presentation of women in his postwar operas Peter Grimes and The Rape of Lucretia. It forms part of a larger Britten project that is detailed elsewhere on this blog (see the archive).

Drawing on the music-analytical findings of earlier work (see here and here) and Žižek’s exploration of Lacan’s apothegm that ‘there is no sexual relationship’, frequently restated in Žižek’s writing on opera and elsewhere, I interrogate the female figures in Grimes and Lucretia in terms both of Britten’s reflexion of prevailing ideology and of its revelatory force in our own situation. Continue reading Women in Postwar Britten

Peter Grimes and his Others

Benjamin Britten

One of the first things I wrote on Britten’s operas will appear later this year in a Festschrift in honour of Julian Rushton (‘Being-With Grimes: the Problem of Others in Britten’s First Opera’. In Art and Ideology in European Opera: Essays in Honour of Julian Rushton, edited by Clive Brown, David Cooper, and Rachel Cowgill. Woodbridge: Boydell Brewer. In press.). It forms part of a larger series of studies of constructions of the human subject in Britten’s operas (see here and here).

Peter Grimes has the unusual double honour of guaranteeing the persistence of opera as an art-form in the second half of the twentieth century and providing the intellectual focus for the beginnings of the cultural turn and the ‘New Musicology’. Philip Brett’s groundbreaking 1977 study of the opera provided a springboard for the study of Britten’s operas, and Western art music more generally, from the perspective of victimized others, in this case mid-century British male homosexuals.
Continue reading Peter Grimes and his Others