The Hidden Heart: A Life of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears – Iconic Arts
The Hidden Heart: A Life of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

The Hidden Heart: A Life of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

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Title: The Hidden Heart: A Life of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears
Date: 2001
Language: English
Media Download Available: Digital Video (DVD) 
Quality & Size: Excellent/ Professional (1.86 GB)
Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Details: An excellent film documentary on the career of Benjamin Britten and his Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962), and Death in Venice (1972). I consider myself very lucky to have seen the original Met Opera run of Death in Venice with Pears, baritone John Shirley-Quirk, and conductor Steuart Bedford, who was entrusted by Britten with conducting the opera in his absence. It was an unforgettable theatrical experience, not just because of the powerful nature of the libretto or the excellence of the music, but because of its presentation as a multimedia experience with images projected on a backdrop, the voice of Apollo (Andrea Velis) electronically piped into the proscenium from offstage. None of this sounds particularly innovative nowadays, but believe me, in 1974 it was mind-blowing. Griffiths tackles the delicate situation of Pears and Britten’s intimacy very well. Without being graphic, she makes it very clear that Pears was Britten’s muse for the last 34 years of his life, and that the sexual side of their relationship—which Britten, being rather prudish by nature, was uncomfortable about discussing even in intimate letters to Pears—was always fueled, or tempered, by the extraordinary sensitivity of Pears’s singing. Nowadays there are several critics, Norman Lebrecht being the most vocal, for whom Peter Pears’s voice is an ugly obstacle to their appreciation of Britten’s work as composer, conductor, and pianist, but I find it difficult to disparage the tenor too much. He really was a great artist, although (as the archival footage proves) he was much better acting with the voice than acting on stage, though I recall his Aschenbach being quite overwhelming onstage. Some of the most moving and remarkable footage centers on the world premiere of the War Requiem. At virtually the last minute, the Soviet Union refused to allow Galina Vishnevskaya to sing in the premiere because of the sensitivity that still existed in Russia at that time for the German invasion of World War II ...