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.