The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion by Claire Seymour

By Claire Seymour

The fragile stability among deepest and public communique, and the stress among paintings as self-expression and artwork as ethical solution have been key issues in Britten's tune. Seymour examines ways that Britten's operas explored and articulated the inherent ambiguity and latent sexuality of tune, quite music, and means that Britten's operas might illustrate his look for a public 'voice' which might embrace, speak, and maybe unravel his deepest ideals and anxieties. Analyses of Britten's operas from Paul Bunyan to dying in Venice, the 3 Church Parables, and several other of the 'children's operas' provide proof that, for Britten, opera used to be the common medium wherein to discover, show and, mockingly, repress his inner most concerns.CLAIRE SEYMOUR is an Opera experiences coach at Rose Bruford university, Kent.

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Additional info for The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion (Aldeburgh Studies in Music)

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As at freedom’s puzzled feet Yawn the gulfs of self-defeat; All but heroes are unnerved When life and love must be deserved. The libretto is most obviously concerned with this at the end: VOICE OF PAUL BUNYAN: Every day America’s destroyed and re-created, America is what you do, America is I and you, America is what you choose to make it. Auden may have addressed these lines to Britten, as a reply to his frequent complaints that America was not living up to its promise: ‘America seems to be letting us down in every way .

He is more than just an adventurous individual who has conquered and opened up new country without violence or bloodshed; rather he has become an embodiment or incarnation of mankind’s spirit of conquest. Presented as a disembodied voice, his melodramatic spoken text inevitably creates problems of musical and dramatic integration. Auden’s libretto lacks satisfactory links between its essentially self-contained scenes, and this to some extent inhibits the development of narrative and character. Weaknesses in a spoken drama may, however, benefit an opera libretto which can be arranged as ‘set-pieces’: the music can heighten the emotional immediacy and rhetoric when continuity is missing in the drama.

The simultaneous sounding of E n and E b in the final bar perhaps indicates the strain between man’s eternal hope and his indomitable will to strive against adversity and misfortune; as Paul Bunyan reassures Johnny: PAUL BUNYAN: I know what you want. It’s harder than you think and not so pleasant. But you shall have it and shan’t have to wait much longer, Good night, Johnny. ‘Bunyan’s Goodnight (iii)’ (No. 17) which follows the ‘Regret’, was added by Britten during revisions to the score in 1974: Now let the complex spirit dissolve in the darkness Where the Actual and the Possible are mysteriously exchanged.

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