Britten's Gloriana in Hamburg and London(April 2013)
Britten's coronation opera Gloriana is a centenary highlight in a new Richard Jones production, unveiled at the Hamburg State Opera and returning to its birthplace at The Royal Opera in London.
Benjamin Britten's opera Gloriana was premiered in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II, when it was not accorded full official favour. The opera's depiction of the Queen's ancestor Elizabeth I, torn between love and duty, ruffled feathers at its gala first night full of invited dignitaries. Gloriana has received notable stagings in recent decades, attracting producers to its conflict between outward pageantry and inner personal conflict. It has also begun to travel more widely in Europe and the USA, and the Britten centenary year has brought its first production in a major German opera house.
The new production by Richard Jones was unveiled at the Hamburg State Opera in March and will travel to The Royal Opera in London in June almost 60 years to the day of its first performance. The opera will also be screened live from Covent Garden on 24 June to over 350 cinemas worldwide. The Hamburg cast was headed by Amanda Roocroft as Elizabeth I with Robert Murray as the Earl of Essex and the Hamburg State Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Simone Young as the fourth installment in her Britten opera cycle there. In London the cast features Susan Bullock and Toby Spence with Paul Daniel as conductor.
"Benjamin Britten’s stage work Gloriana, unknown in Germany and performed for the first time in a major opera house here, is not only an affectionate, modern homage to Elizabeth I in imitation of the Tudor period, written by the first British opera composer of note since Henry Purcell. It is probably also the last ‘coronation opera’ in history, premiered in 1953 at London’s Covent Garden on the occasion of the coronation of Elizabeth II...
"Triumph and tragedy, the myth of Elizabeth and the private person. These could be ideally captured in Gloriana in a dramatic and yet imposing form. Britten positions the Queen between citizens’ masques and courtly balls, but then shows her straight away by contrast in her boudoir without the famous wig: it is a masque, a stylistic exercise, sometimes old-fashionedly formal and cold, then in turn very moving. Director Richard Jones tackles this by setting it at one remove as an amateur play in a school hall in 1950s style...
"The new production of Britten’s Gloriana in Hamburg is a colourful spectacle. The work focusses on Elizabeth I, who has to sign the death warrant for her rebellious former lover, the Earl of Essex. We see a play within a play. The Tudor period is seen from the perspective of 1953, when Elizabeth II was crowned. Director Richard Jones has Britten’s opera performed as an Elizabethan play in a 'coronation hall'... Most convincingly, he conveys the personal conflict of Elizabeth I between private feelings and matters of state."
"In few other works was Britten’s love for the music of the Elizabethan age given such thorough and beautiful expression as in Gloriana... a modern music theatre work, which puts the spotlight on courtly intrigues, historical and contemporary, with appropriate (Shakespearean!) lack of respect."
"...stirring brass fanfares, telling allusions to music of bygone times and imposing massed ensembles. This is an excellent opera, not perhaps on a par with Peter Grimes but musically at least as rewarding as Billy Budd... This revival ought to win Gloriana many new admirers..."
New York Times
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Photo: Hamburg State Opera / Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
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