Benjamin Britten's Curlew River
St Bartholomew the Great | 9 - 13 Jan 2018 | 8 pm
Animated Trailer for Curlew River by Cecilia Reeve (ceciliareeve.tumblr.com)
Curlew River marked a quilting point in the development of Britten's musical style, paving the way for the 'orientalism' that was to pervade his work right up until his death. Taking his inspiration from Japanese gagaku court theatre and classical Noh drama, which he had encountered during his concert tour of the Far East in 1955, Curlew River emerged as a work poised for the exploration of issues surrounding identity and otherness. Written amidst an international landscape fraught with political tensions and with the threat of destruction lingering on the brink, Curlew River unfolds as a deeply pathetic meditation on pain, loss and, however eventual, acceptance.
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‘It tells, very simply, of a Noblewoman who, driven mad by grief when her son is kidnapped, comes to a ferry. A boat waits to take pilgrims to a miracle-shrine on the further bank, but, because she is mad, the Ferryman refuses to carry her over until her despair moves him and the other pilgrims to feelings of guilt. During the journey he tells of the miraculous happenings at the shrine – the grave of a young child – and the Madwoman recognises her son from the story. At the tomb they are comforted by a vision of the boy and his mother is relieved of her madness.’
- Colin Graham, director of the original production of Curlew River
Credit to Sam Cornish
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Nicholas Riddle, CEO of music publishing house Edition Peters, senior trustee and church warden of St Bartholomew-the-Great, and Britten aficionado, gave a short talk before the final performance of Curlew River, on the 13th of January, in St Bartholomew-the-Less.
Reviews and Endorsements
Rupert Christiansen, Opera Critic for the Telegraph
A beautiful, dedicated and moving production of Britten's Curlew River in the magnificent surroundings of St Bartholomew the Great. Last performance tonight: warmly recommended— Rupert Christiansen (@Rupechri) 13 January 2018