England celebrates Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday

By | Category: Travel news, Travel tips & opinions

England is alive with the sound of music in 2013, as the year marks the centenary of Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976), the world’s most performed opera composer born in the 20th century. While the anniversary falls in November, events and activities will take place throughout the year and millions are expected to join Britten 100, the widest ever global celebration of an English composer. Here, VisitEngland selects some of the best events on offer that pay tribute to the composer’s wide-ranging influence

Matthew Barley’s Around Britain, Nationwide
Tour begins 15 January 2013
This very special year begins with Matthew Barley’s ‘Around Britten’, 100 events to mark 100 years. Known as the world’s most adventurous cellist, Barley celebrates Britten’s centenary with an ambitious national tour. Barley’s aim is to take Britten’s music to audiences who might not otherwise hear it, playing in a kaleidoscope of venues throughout the country from cathedrals, concert halls and castles to a lighthouse in Kent, a barn in Colchester and a cave in Derbyshire. Additionally, a partnership with the National Trust sees Barley perform in many of the Trust’s historic locations around England in summer 2013. These include Gibside country estate in the North East,Coughton Court – a Tudor house in the Warwickshire countryside, Coggeshall Barn – a 13th century monastic barn, Lodge Park – a 17th century grandstand in the Cotswolds, Tyntesfield – a Victorian Gothic Revival house in Bristol, Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire, and the medieval and picturesque Bodiam Castle, with more still to be announced.

Britten Trail, Aldeburgh
Begins Easter 2013 (official dates TBC)
At the epicentre of Britten’s performing legacy is Aldeburgh, the Suffolk coastal town where he lived and worked for most of his life. A new Britten Trail, developed by the Britten–Pears Foundation and local community groups, will link various Britten-associated sites together in a walking tour around the town from Easter 2013. Other Britten related locations in Aldeburgh include The Maltings at SnapeThe Red House (see below), Aldeburgh Parish Church, Blythburgh Church, Orford Church andJubilee Hall. As its charmingly old-fashioned seafront suggests, Aldeburgh has been a sought-after seaside resort since the 19th century. Today it provides an excellent base for exploring the shingle beaches and heathlands of this unspoilt East Suffolk coastline. A small local fishing industry survives, ensuring you can enjoy fresh caught fish in its delightful local restaurants. At the church of St Peter and St Paul, look for the window designed by John Piper dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Britten.

The Red House, Aldeburgh
Re-opening June 2013 (official date TBC)
The Red House in Aldeburgh, where Britten lived and worked for the last decades of his life, is home to the most comprehensive archive of any composer. Now home to the Britten-Pears Foundation, The Red House features a recreation of Britten’s composing studio and a major new exhibition about the man and his music. In addition, a purpose-built new building in the grounds designed by architects Stanton Williams, will free up existing storage space for public access, including Red Cottage, the studio where Britten wrote masterpieces such as War Requiem. For the first time, visitors will be able to see where Britten worked. There will also be space for a larger exhibition gallery, with the highlights of BPF’s collections used to create an inspiring introduction to the man and his music.

Gloriana, Royal Opera House, London
20 June – 6 July 2013
Fourteen of Britten’s major operas are set to be performed in the UK in 2013 (by eight of the UK’s professional opera companies as well as by music students and amateurs), while major orchestras, ensembles, dance companies, artists and venues up and down the country are also planning special centenary programming. Among the highlights is a new staging of Britten’s opera Gloriana, which returns to the Royal Opera House 60 years almost to the day since it was first given to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation. It is also being screened in cinemas across the world.  Booking opens 15 January 2013.

Aldeburgh Festival, Suffolk
7 June – 23 June
Inspired by the vast skies and moody seas of the Suffolk coast, Britten and Pears, along with writer Eric Crozier, founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. Since the first festival, the Suffolk Coast has become a world-renowned meeting place for artists and audiences alike. Inspired by the legacy of Britten, the festival has evolved into  Aldeburgh Music –  a year-round programme of artistic endeavour, much of which is held at the incomparable Snape Maltings Concert Hall. In its 66th year, Aldeburgh Music will present Britten’s most famous opera, Peter Grimes, on Aldeburgh beach in June 2013, alongside concert performances of the opera at Snape Maltings Concert Hall and a Grimes journey in Aldeburgh town devised by Punchdrunk.  General booking opens 19 February 2013.

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, British Library
Summer 2013 (official dates TBC)
The British Library acquired the draft score of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra earlier this year, and will put the manuscript on display for the first time in summer 2013 at the centrepiece of an exhibition of material – much previously unseen by the public – demonstrating Britten’s compositional methods, from first thoughts to final form. The exhibition will also give insight into Britten’s literary interests and demonstrates how important the cultural landscape of Suffolk was to him. It features important recordings from the Library’s rich sound collections.

Festival of Britten: a season of Britten Operas, Opera North, Nationwide
Various dates
Riding on the wave of a tremendous year, Opera North will continue to fly the Britten flag with their Festival of Britten.  April 2013 will see a new production of the chamber opera Albert Herring, with Dame Josephine Barstow as Lady Billows, before a full season in the autumn of three mainstage opera productions, featuring a new production of Death in Venice and two revivals: one of the award-winning Peter Grimes, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and a revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Appearing in the Festival of Britten will be a host of distinguished artists, including the singers Dame Josephine Barstow, Giselle Allen, Robert Hayward, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Alan Oke and Peter Savidge; the conductors Richard Farnes and Jac van Steen; and the directors Martin Duncan, Phyllida Lloyd and Yoshi Oida.

Glyndebourne Touring Opera stages new production of The Rape of Lucretia
Autumn 2013
A longstanding beacon for England’s classical music scene is Glyndebourne. Britten was first heard at Glyndebourne in 1946 when he and his team of singers arrived to stage the world premiere of The Rape of Lucretia. Glyndebourne takes to the road again in Autumn 2013 with three large scale productions, including a new production of The Rape of Lucretia, directed by Fiona Shaw. Locations, dates and the full performance schedule will be released early in the new year but audiences in Plymouth and Canterbury can book now.

Friday Afternoons, Nationwide
22 November
Friday Afternoons is a nationwide singing project led by Aldeburgh Music, culminating on Britten’s birthday – 22 November 2013. The initiative, which forms part of Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary programme, is based around the set of 12 Friday Afternoons songs that he composed for the school in Prestatyn where his brother was schoolmaster.

Britten at the National Portrait Gallery, London
November 2013 (official dates TBC)
The National Portrait Gallery draws on its holdings of Britten photographs and other materials for a display in its twentieth-century galleries to run from November 2013. The collection includes works by Sarah Fanny Hockey, Georg Ehrlich and Kenneth Green. Green’s oil on canvas depicting Benjamin Britten and partner Peter Pears is currently on display in Room 31 as part of the gallery’s primary collection.

Back where it all began…
Finally, Lowestoft, where Britten was born, celebrates with Seafront display, the Royal Plains Fountain and open days at Britten’s childhood home throughout November. Stay overnight at Britten House, the birthplace of the composer and his family home for 21 years – now a Bed & Breakfast. The property was purchased by the Britten family in 1913. This magnificent Grade II listed Victorian townhouse offers stunning sea views and oozes charm and grandeur.

To explore more of England’s extraordinary musical heritage, visit www.visitengland.com/music


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