Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was the leading British composer of the twentieth century and his reputation is international. Although his life was marked with many ‘establishment’ honours, he remained at heart an outsider, alienated by his homosexuality, his pacifism, his genius, his uncompromising commitment to his own judgement and even his extraordinary success.
But the story told in this documentary is, above all, a love story, one that tells of Britten’s passion for music and the intensity of his union with the tenor Peter Pears, his companion in life and creativity. It explores his talent, triumph, trials and tribulations by focusing on three of his major works – Peter Grimes, the War Requiem and Death in Venice – and draws on specially-staged and newly-filmed performance extracts; clips from productions recorded in Britten’s day, including several featuring Pears; archive material; and newsreel footage. A picture is drawn of the public’s perception of and reaction to the man and his music, while contributions from friends and close associates reveal much about the very private person he remained in spite of his fame.
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