Written by Dr Rad Milar Paunovic Stajn and Dr Slobodan Lazarevic
published by Edwin Mellen Press
As always I get a little excited when a parcel drops through my letterbox; a childhood thing I suppose, particularly when it’s a book about music or musicians!
Excitement usually turns into a cross between anticipation and a slight trepidation;although a pleasure of course too, to read someone’s words and write my thoughts
on their work. So here goes:
A new jointly authored volume on Benjamin Britten’s operas and the mythologicalideas within these works, Drs Stajn and Lazarevic have written a very interesting book with new thoughts about his approach to the writing of these works. Publishedby the Edwin Mellen Press we have a book of 164 pages with five main chapters, each of which is itself split into many sections. This is good as it breaks up text and also helps the information, understanding, thoughts and ideas of the authors become more absorbed by the reader. Don’t let the title put you off at all, it’s a really interesting book and well worth the time spent on absorbing all the information and theories behind a new book on Britten – truly one of the greatest, and certainly, one the most important musicians the UK ever produced. working all possible musical genres, from music for children to major orchestral works, but the focus here, is on his amazing output of fantastic operas.
As a bit of a fan of Britten and his music I did approach this book with both interest and anxiety in equal measure, to be honest. Mythological is a word that certainly caught my interest too, and as you read, you find a few possible answers about both the music and each libretto. Analysis of such established works of musical art sometimes disturbs me a little, taking away the magic, or sometimes misunderstanding completely the composer’s intensions and inspiration. Unless, of course, you’ve had the fortunate opportunity to speak to the artist in person and even then creative artists sometimes like to spin a yarn, a tale etc. often with a twinkle in their eye to throw off any musical analysis. However, the authors here a well in tune, excuse the pun, with their subject. You can see this clearly as you read each page, they both strive to help us understand and follow their analytical journey and help us see some interesting insights and understand perhaps a little more of these operatic works. Using an amazing research opportunity, and numerous resources, to develop their thinking and insight into some of the most popular of 20th century musical works, I, for one, appreciate some more thinking on one of my favourite composers, so another nice addition to the library size number of books on Benjamin Britten! Sometimes a little dry/academic, maybe, but always with the right intention of very thorough research for the facts. I decided to keep this review pretty short – a change for me, I hear you say – but, as it’s really a book as much about the authors interpretation from their reading and discussions, I feel it only fair that you are given the chance to read, analyse, think, discuss and conclude for yourself.
Based in Belgrade, both authors, already have phds, their knowledge and enthusiasm for this subject could have earned them another one each for this work. So all in all an interesting addition to the works on Britten and his music. Enthusiasts or just lovers of modern opera, check this out if you can.