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Watch: Ian Bostridge on Britten's Canticles

The British tenor on the challenges and rewards of five of Britten's rarely performed gems.

By Rose Vickridge (Former Editor (Web Text))

8 June 2013 at 4.05pm

In July, Covent Garden audiences will be treated to rare staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s Canticles, marking one hundred years since the composer’s birth.

The five Canticles span almost thirty years. Performed together they provide a compelling map of Britten’s composing life, and were created in the wake of some of his most famous operas including Billy Budd and The Turn of the Screw. A cast of leading musicians will gather to perform the pieces, including renowned Britten interpreters tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake.

‘The Canticles are a funny mixture of the religious and the secular,’ says Ian. ‘Britten wrote the first Canticle in the late 1940s and it’s a setting of a metaphysical poem, a religious text, but at the same time it’s also a love song to Peter Pears.’

‘There’s no question that Pears’s voice absolutely shapes the music, and the lines are constructed to suit his voice. It’s this mixture of the robust middle voice and the ability to be ethereal at the top, which I think was very special about Pears’s approach to singing.’

We caught up with Ian and Julius in rehearsals. After an intimate run-through of Canticles I and III, Ian told us about what makes the Canticles special, how they relate to Britten’s life and work, and what challenges lie in performing them.

Find out more about the origins of each of the Canticles

Britten’s Canticles run in the Linbury Studio Theatre from 10 to 12 July 2013. Some tickets are available.

Discover the host of events taking place to mark Britten 100.

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