A little less boy please ...
'A bit more Mann and a little less boy, please' demands the Guardian headline over its review of English National Opera's new production of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice. A line of thinking that reminds me that the opera was banned from being shown to schoolchildren in Kent, England in 1989
In that year Conservative councillors forced Glynebourne Touring Opera to cancel performances planned for a school's festival. At the time the chair of Kent school's sub-committee said the decision was made because: 'It was felt that the question of homosexuality was not appropriate for all the schoolchildren who would attend.'
Elsewhere the ban was described as 'unbelievable', 'pernicious', and 'scandalous', and it was believed to be the first time any concern had been expressed about the opera since its 1973 premiere. Donald Mitchell of the Britten-Pears Foundation said the decision had been influenced by the controversial Section 28 legislation which prevented local authorities from promoting homosexuality. 'It is appalling that councils should ban a work of this stature by a composer who did so much for children. They have covered themselves in shame', he said."
A spokesperson for Kent County Council said children as young as ten would have seen the opera, and it was felt that its contents were just not suitable. The Section 28 legislation was repealed in 2003, but Kent County Council retained elements of it in their schools curriculum by teaching that heterosexual marriage and family relationships are the firm foundations for society.
Now let's celebrate not one, but two new productions of Death in Venice with Britten's champagne moment.
Sorry, my photo isn't the new ENO production, it's from the Opera Company of Philadelphia, image credit Stevenrickards.com. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
Also, "Death in Venice" really isn't an opera for ten-year-olds, not so much because of the homosexuality involved as the fact that the themes and subject matter are definitely for adults, and children would probably be bored to death.
I recall that when the MET Opera last produced "Death in Venice", almost a decade ago, the attendence figures were about 55% (I believe). However, like Gluck's recent "Orfeo ed Euridice", the opera should, of course, still be regularly produced by the MET Opera; but perhaps (like the Gluck) for a smaller number of performances, or in a smaller, MET sponsored hall. (Of course, Britten's "Death in Venice" would appear to be a prime candidate for MET Opera television broadcasting -- as it was for the filmed Glyndebourne Production.)