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Britten 100: Beyond the centenary

(May 2014)

The Britten centenary celebrations, stretching across the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons, have ended with major events in Lyon and Los Angeles.

“There’s been nothing like it in musical history: even Beethoven and Mozart have never been so magnificently honoured.” So wrote the Daily Telegraph, summing up the Britten centenary last November. Starting with the opening of the 2012/13 season and running through to the recent staging of The Prince of the Pagodas by Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Festival Britten at the Opéra de Lyon, and Billy Budd closing the Los Angeles Opera’s extensive celebration, the two-season centenary has seen Britten applauded around the globe.

With over 4500 performances in 1100 towns in 55 countries, the numbers speak volumes, but more important is the legacy of Britten’s music reaching new ears. While the success of Grimes on the Beach focused attention rightly on Aldeburgh, the centenary also saw significant territorial premieres taking place in South America (Billy Budd in Santiago, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Rio de Janeiro, The Turn of the Screw in São Paulo), in Russia (Death in Venice), and in China (Peter Grimes, War Requiem, Noye’s Fludde).

New generations of conductors and soloists have explored Britten, extending their repertoire beyond the familiar favourites, with a particular growth of interest in Sinfonia da Requiem and the concertos.

The Friday Afternoons project, which saw 100,000 children performing songs from Britten’s collection in a birthday time-zone relay from New Zealand to California, won the Music Teacher award for best digital resource in music education. Plans are underway for a second year of Friday Afternoons encouraging singing in schools, with further Britten songs and newly commissioned works.

> Visit the Britten 100 website
> Visit the Friday Afternoons website

Photo: Billy Budd closes the Britten 100 celebrations in Los Angeles (Image: Robert Millard)

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