Music: Brilliant Britten

The opening of Benjamin Britten's latest opera, Death in Venice, poses the question of why no composer has previously tried to set Thomas Mann's writings to music. One reason may be that his themes were often heavily bourgeois. On the other hand, Mann's tales were frequently structured like musical compositions—ranging from the symphonic patterns of The Magic Mountain to the leitmotivs of Death in Venice, which would seem to be eminently transformable into opera. Britten has done just that, and the result is brilliant.

As the centerpiece of the current Aldeburgh Festival, Britten's Death...

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