Archive for February, 2014

Britten’s Curlew River


Submerged in the Serpentine by Swizzle Studio on flickr
Submerged in the Serpentine by Swizzle Studio on flickr

One of the great things about living in a city like Cambridge with such a vibrant tradition in classical music is that the student societies are always putting on amazing performances. They are amazingly talented youngsters and the audience is usually packed with their friends which lends a real buzz to things. The Cambridge University Opera Society (CUOS) has put on some wonderful productions since we moved here. They’ve done big operas from the standard repertoire like Eugene Onegin and the forthcoming Don Giovanni (which my son Will recently saw the students at York perform) but also less often staged ones like Pelléas et Mélisande, The Rake’s Progress, and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

That last one, The Turn of the Screw was amazing. I blogged about it and it has remained one of my favourite nights at the opera ever. So I am so excited that the CUOS are putting on another of Britten’s smaller ‘operas’, Curlew River. It is on this Friday and Saturday the 7th and 8th of February 2014 in Trinity College Chapel. There’s more information on their website or Facebook event page and tickets are available from the ADC Box Office. It’s a strange and magical piece in which Britten combines aspects of Japanese Noh plays with a medieval church parable. The resulting chamber piece is hauntingly beautiful.

I have seen Curlew River once before, as a late night prom at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004 and there is some video on YouTube of that performance.

The current CUOS committee have also started a series of academic talks to run alongside their productions. The series opened on Saturday at St John’s Divinity School where John Hopkins talked on all aspects of the piece, from its position in Britten’s canon and in the culture of the time through to musical aspects like Britten’s use of heterophony and musical frames.

We are also lucky that the original production was recorded, and further that it is available on Spotify.

See you there!