Variations on Britten


That tension, between private morality and public decorum, became the leitmotif of Britten’s adult life. Much of his creative inspiration was to be found in his sexuality and his – or society’s – conflicted response to it. The same tension lurks on almost every page of a flurry of books marking the composer’s centenary. In our more open-minded age, it may seem surprising to discover how obsessed 21st-century Britten studies are with Britten’s gayness, but it remains the key to understanding his creative psyche and his operatic characters: Grimes, the outsider-in-society who abuses child-apprentices (Peter Grimes); Vere, the naval captain who struggles to reconcile repression and homosexual desire (Billy Budd); Aschenbach, the vulnerable old artist who draws inspiration from beautiful unattainable boys (Death in Venice).

more from Andrew Clark at the FT here.