Benjamin Britten's operas
Michael Wilcox's Outline takes a sidelong and challenging glance at Britten's operas from the theatrical point of a gay dramatist. Britten's output includes notable settings of poetry by Auden, Rimbaud, Michelangelo and Wilfred Owen--all homosexuals. But it is his magnificent operas which lie at the heart of his work; beneath the recurring theme of innocence corrupted, Wilcox explores their fascinating personal and private gay subtexts, ranging from camp innuendo to profound and secret emotions. He also recounts the story of Britten's relationships with his lover Peter Pears, and with his librettists, including W. H. Auden, E. M. Forster, Eric Crozier and Myfanwy Piper.
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This book was bought on line. It is probably be the only way that I would have purchased it because, the blurb is totally off putting. Mr Wilcox bases his entire rational of Britten's operas upon the man's homosexuality and "liking for young boys" (a charge brought, as far as I can tell, by only one biographer of Britten). Naturally, one's sexual orientation is going to influence any creative output, and Michael Wilcox does have some interesting insights into Britten's operas but, to concentrate upon only one issue does limit the scope. Mr Wilcox sites the fact that, in one opera, God is played by a male singer as proof of his theory: in the 1950's, and early 1960's, to suggest anything other than God being male would have been greeted with complete derision. The fact that Britten liked to be surrounded by youngsters is again sited as proof that he was a closet paedophile. This may be so, but surely, without much more proof, this is simply the sign of a kindly man who, because of his sexual proclivities, is not going to become a father. I am not expert enough to judge which reading is the truth; I am concerned by a modern attitude of throwing mud at someone with no evidence and then, even if the judgement is proven to be flawed, the person is left with a certain taint of guilt. I find it hard to understand Mr Wilcox's admiration of Britten, he does not paint a picture of a nice or a particularly proficient musician and, if the work is supposed to "out" Britten and, by so doing, enhance the position of homosexuals in society, then it is a massive failure. The casual acceptance that homosexuality and paedophilia go hand in hand, is, I would have thought, grossly offensive to the majority of homosexuals. Not a book that I would recommend anyone to rush to add to their library.
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