Britten’s “Frenchness”: Les Illuminations

Throughout 2013 the University of Sheffield has run a fantastic Benjamin Britten festival directed by Stewart Campbell. I’ve been working on Britten’s settings of French poets (Verlaine, Hugo, and Rimbaud). His famous Illuminations settings of Rimbaud offer some of the most vibrant, tantalising orchestral song writing. Having spent the year coaching different singers on performances of theses tricky, elusive Rimbaud texts about carnivals, exotic cities, bell towers, and rolling seas, I’m delighted to be able to share a little video interview prepared as part of the A Boy was Born festival with performances by David Webb and Sheffield Chamber Orchestra:

I’m hoping also that an extended article I’ve written about the Illuminations will be published next year, but I will in any case be talking about them again in London this Monday at a free, public research seminar at the Institute of Musical Research, Senate House in a talk that looks at what happens when a poem goes into song. With such interesting but challenging material to work with, it’s been a busy year for me honing and developing my words & music research approaches!

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