The success of Peter Grimes caught Britten by surprise. It gave him enormous capital, but for the most part he chose to spend it outside London, away from the emerging music institutions the new Labour government was determined would establish the sort of cultural infrastructure Britain’s recent enemy, Germany, took for granted. Britten felt more comfortable participating first-hand in the Continental traditions Britain was now emulating, distrustful of the architects and executors of this new national culture. In this illustrated lecture Kildea explores the stylistic and philosophical changes in Britten’s music in this ‘middle period’, the obsessions and vision that kept him an outsider no matter the determination of many to bring him into the club, and how he retreated both personally and stylistically in the 1960s, suspicious of the fame the War Requiem had brought him. Kildea covers the composition of Billy Budd, the jealousies and stupidities governing the debacle of Gloriana, and the creation of one of the greatest festivals and concert halls in the world.
This is the second in a series of three lectures in which conductor Paul Kildea, author of a major new biography of composer Benjamin Britten, explores the life and music of this colossal twentieth-century artist.
The conductor and author, Paul Kildea, was born in Australia. He studied piano and musicology at The University of Melbourne and holds a doctorate from Oxford University. His 1997 Opera Australia debut conducting Janácek’s A Cunning Little Vixen led to his appointment as Simone Young’s assistant. Since then he has conducted many of the great artists of today in opera houses and concert halls throughout Europe and Australia.
He has written and broadcast extensively on music and culture in the twentieth century, recently as a contributor to The Proms: A New History (2007) and An Aldeburgh Anthology (2009). Oxford University Press published his two critically acclaimed books on Britten: Selling Britten (2002) and Britten on Music (2003, and pbk 2008). He is currently writing a biography of the composer for Penguin Press.
Paul Kildea is a former Artistic Director of Wigmore Hall, London, and now lives in Berlin.
Mark Milhofer was a choral scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London and the As.Li.Co. opera studio in Milan. He made his debut for the Teatro Regio in Parma in La Cenerentola launching his international career.Further significant appearances include Il Matrimonio Segreto, Billy Budd, Cosi fan tutte, The Magician in Menotti's The Consul, Il Turco in Italia, The Madwoman in Curlew River, Die Entfuhrung, Don Pasquale, La Gazza Ladra, The Turn of the Screw, La Scala di Seta, La Rondine. World premières include Marcello Panni's The Banquet, Marco Tutino's Federico II and Alessandro Solbiati’s Leggenda.