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Gloriana
Benjamin Britten, Charles Mackerras, Welsh National Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Gloriana
Genre: Classical
 
From its first performance in 1953, one of the events celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Gloriana sparked a storm of controversy. Critics wondered--very loudly--if this work was "fit" for the new queen. I...  more »

      
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From its first performance in 1953, one of the events celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Gloriana sparked a storm of controversy. Critics wondered--very loudly--if this work was "fit" for the new queen. Instead of glorifying the myth of Elizabeth I in order to glorify the new queen, Britten and his librettist chose to focus on the "real story" of Elizabeth I's moral conflict regarding her illicit love for the traitor Essex and the events leading to Essex's execution. In spite of later successful performances, the opera remained in relative neglect--until this, its first (and only) recording, made nearly 40 years after the premiere. Finally, under Charles Mackerras's flawless and commanding direction we can appreciate the work as one of Britten's finest stage works. The excellent cast and sumptuous sound bring the pageantry, the intimacy, the skillfully drawn and detailed characters, and the richly hued orchestration to real life--too real for its original, obsessively dignified audience, but perfect for the opera house. --David Vernier

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CD Reviews

A masterpiece
E. Lyons | Ann Arbor, MI | 10/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a truly amazing opera: poetic libretto, pagentry, a mix of great dramatic confrontations and more quiet moments, a complex, fascinating character at the center of the story, and, most importantly, GREAT MUSIC. I really can't understand why it isn't performed more often, especially since it is so melodic and so much more conventional as a "grand opera" than most of Britten's other works. I am also so disappointed that Britten did not make a recording with the original cast as he did for many of his other operas. I guess its premiere wasn't well received, and that is what stopped any plans for a recording at that time (according to what I've read). The original cast was reportedly fabulous (Joan Cross, Peter Pears, etc...), but the one on this recording is very good too. If you are interested in Britten, you must get to know this work!"