“Britten's penultimate opera was planned to be equally effective on television or in the opera house, but it was its first stage production at Covent Garden that made the bigger impact,. Now this film version, imaginatively directed by Margaret Williams and tautly conducted by Kent Nagano, helps swing the balance the other way. There's almost nothing stagey about the opera here. The camera roams freely indoors and out, using cleverly executed angles to follow members of the fearsome Wingrave family at their ancestral home, and throwing in flashbacks and voice-overs wherever they might be apposite – much as one might expect of an adaptation of a literary classic. In fact, the period has been updated to the 1950s, which necessitates some minor changes to Myfanwy Piper's libretto (no need to escort the ladies to their bedchambers by candlelight any more) but this handsome version in all other respects stays close to Britten's intentions. Gerald Finley is a tower of strength as Owen Wingrave, completely believable as the sturdy but sensitive scion of an upper-crust family. The other singers are well cast, and play expertly to the camera. The 'special feature' on the disc, Teresa Griffiths's three-part biographical film, BenjaminBritten: The Hidden Heart, lasts as long as the opera. It focuses on three major works – PeterGrimes, the War Requiem and Death in Venice – and, while its message is somewhat diffuse and the editorial style jumps irritatingly from image to image as if afraid to let the camera come to rest, it does include a wealth of fleeting extracts showing Britten and Pears in performance. Those alone are enough to make it a desirable collector's item.”
“The unsympathetic fiancee, Kate...seems a more complex character than before, well taken by Charlotte Hellekant, and the gallery of disagreeable family-members is strongly cast too”
“Finley and his top-drawer British actor/singer colleagues tread an impeccably drawn line beween emotion and excess. Nagano and his German players might have been a strange choice but they are never less than efficient.”
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