Cher Public

I have ever used to set the last Judgment Day before mine eyes

Rupert Christiansen: “That pathetic old woman is also a great and noble queen.” [The Telegraph]

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Rupert’s paragraphs are as boring as the Gloriana opera.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

  • laddie

    I love the tag sequence. LOL.

  • pasavant

    His music is full of wrong notes.

  • Belfagor

    passavant, what does that mean? Isn’t that the same as the Emperor telling Mozart there were ‘too many notes’? In my experience, great composers use just as many or as few or as right or as wrong as they require……..

  • In my view, worse operas are staged more often.

  • The Conte

    This is one of Christiansen’s better articles, I feel. However, whilst it was inevitable to mention the unenthusiastic reception to the first night. That doesn’t adequately explain why the opera isn’t considered to rank alongside Billy Budd, Turn of the Screw or Death in Venice. Although not quite as dramatically unified as those works, the music is as beautiful, inventive and interesting as the best pages from them (and I certainly like the piece as much as those operas).

    Christiansen has either missed or not had space to add the reaction of the unofficial Britten fan club, whose acceptance of Gloriana is needed for it to become a repertoire staple. The problem is not that the piece has a confused, unclear libretto, but rather that opera fans have found it hard to cope with the purposeful ambiguity of the work (not patriotic enough for the establishment vs. too patriotic for the socialist Brittenophiles).

    Since the people I know who worship Britten’s operas and believe them to be the greatest ever written don’t really like music in opera, is it any surprise that they are allergic to one of his most subtle and musically engaging works?

    • Ilka Saro

      I am a big fan of Britten’s operas. But I can say that although Gloriana has some powerful moments, the sum of its parts is not so great.

      Virtually all of Britten’s major characters are tragic, having in them a great beauty, even some wisdom, but ultimately incapable of seeing the faults that bring about their downfall. This equivocal quality is built right into the scores in a visceral way. My take is that his Elizabeth is drawn equivocally enough. Its perfectly fair to use Elizabeth Tudor as a model for this sort of conflict, especially in her messy and ambiguous relationship with Essex. But in the case of Gloriana, IMO, the music — while brilliant at times — doesn’t connect the tragic elements so effectively. The connection between inner beauty and inner flaws is their as a concept, but doesn’t resonate in the score as is the case Grimes, Budd, Death, Turn etc.

      • Ilka Saro

        Argh! Should say that “Elizabeth is NOT drawn equivocally enough.”

        • Krunoslav

          Still, GLORIANA lacks the high drama and scorching ensembles found in PELLEAS ET MELISANDE.

    • Henry Holland

      Since the people I know who worship Britten’s operas and believe them to be the greatest ever written don’t really like music in opera

      What does that mean? As much as I love Albert Herring, Billy Budd, Turn of the Screw and especially Death in Venice, I’m also not a big fan of some of them, especially The Rape of Lucretia. Britten was my first operatic love and to this day ranks only behind Schreker in my book. I love “the music in opera”, it’s the voices that get in the way sometimes! :-)

      I like Gloriana a lot but for me, the flaws are: the Norwich scene, which seems to last an eternity, the quartet in Act II, scene 2 which doesn’t quite work for me and the length of Act III, scene II, the street scene, which goes on a little too long, I think.

    • PushedUpMezzo

      Here is one of Christianssen’s worse articles!

      Several rather dreamy barihunk photos in there though to compensate.

      • Rackon

        Iestyn Davies one of the “World’s Most Glamorous Opera Stars”…really? And Kaufmann a “perfect model” for a Pre-Raphaelite Jesus”?

        Is Rupert really responsible for this?

        • PushedUpMezzo

          I think Conchita Wurst is a better Jesus match, complete with flowing robes

          And there are many more glamorous British singers than Miss Royal. Maybe he needs to get out more.