- Arnold Whittall
Opera in a prologue and three acts, op.33, by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by Montagu Slater after George Crabbe’s poem The Borough; London, Sadler’s Wells, 7 June 1945.
Despite the difficulties attending the composition and production of Paul Bunyan (1941), his first fully musical work for the stage, Britten was soon contemplating a more ambitious operatic project. In the summer of 1941, while visiting California with Britten, Peter Pears bought a copy of George Crabbe’s Works; singer and composer had already read E. M. Forster’s article in The Listener (29 May 1941), ‘George Crabbe: the Poet and the Man’, with its evocation of Aldeburgh and the English east coast. Pears and Britten began to sketch out a scenario before they left America in March 1942, and more drafting took place during the voyage itself. As Pears later put it, ‘by the time we came back to London, the whole story of ...