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Benjamin Britten, Owen Wingrave, G. Finley, P. Savidge, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, K. Nagano, directed by M. Williams (released February 22, 2005)
Benjamin Britten, Owen Wingrave, in box set of Britten operas conducted by Britten (vol. 1, with Albert Herring, Billy Budd, and Peter Grimes) (released in 2004)
Williams makes a nice combination of actual dialogue, with characters singing on screen, with inner monologue, in which we hear the singers in voice-over. The medium of film allows for an interesting incorporation of flashbacks to Owen's childhood, too. Sometimes, Williams goes for shots that are too gimmicky (Janet Tovey was the cinematographer), as in the family ensemble, when members of the family come in and out of closeup, wagging their fingers at Owen. Just as often, Williams's eye creates gorgeous tableaux, like the three women of the family seated at table, cutting their meat, and berating Owen in rage. The location for the family manor, Paramore, brings home the wealth of Owen's family, with generations of soldier-ancestors glowering from painted portraits on the Gothic manor walls. When Owen returns to the house, he sings (in voice-over), "And now to face them, all of them, / The living and the dead."
Anna Picard (The Independent, April 29)
Anthony Holden (The Observer, April 29)
Andrew Clark (Financial Times, April 27)
Warwick Thompson (Bloomberg News, April 25)
Rupert Christiansen (The Telegraph, April 25)
Dominic McHugh (The Opera Critic, April 25)
The Times (April 25)
The opera is rather short, but the DVD is rounded out with a bonus that is almost as much of a draw as the main feature. The documentary Benjamin Britten: The Hidden Heart, directed by Teresa Griffiths, is an hour-long profile of Britten's relationship with tenor Peter Pears. There is little by way of new information, but the film clips of Britten and Pears are wonderful: Britten playing some of the sea music from Peter Grimes at the piano; Pears singing Grimes; Britten walking next to the young Queen Elizabeth II; Britten conducting and Pears singing at the premiere of the War Requiem.
Arthaus Musik DVD 100 372
Dudley Moore parody of Benjamin Britten/Peter Pears