British Youth Opera's season features two rarely seen works by Britten and Malcolm Williamson
Benjamin Britten was a lifelong pacifist, and his penultimate opera was deeply personal. Owen Wingrave, based on a novel by Henry James, gave dramatic voice to his passionately held convictions and his continuing themes: his defence of the outsider, the betrayal of innocence, injustice and cruelty. Wingrave is a young man from a military family at a military college where he is the most gifted student. He is, however, a committed pacifist and he courageously takes on his family and their long-standing tradition of militarism and war.
Malcolm Williamson was a controversial figure, simultaneously saint and sinner. His energetic and very individual talent brought him early fame and by the 1960s he was one of the most commissioned composers in Britain – and one of the most outrageous. He became Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975 but the following years coincided with personal crises and creative blocks and he became a serial deadline-misser, dying in 2003 by which time his music had gone out of fashion. Since his death its qualities are again being acclaimed and English Eccentrics, with a libretto by Edith Sitwell, is one of the works which made his name. A witty and affectionate comedy, it explores the enchanting and enchanted lives of some real-life eccentrics from English society.
British Youth Opera’s season opens at the Peacock Theatre, London on September 3 with Britten’s Owen Wingrave and continues with Malcolm Williamson’s English Eccentrics On September 7.