Owen Wingrave (Act 2)

Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)

COMING SOON

With live theatre performances severely restricted by Covid-19, Grange Park Opera, Surrey has filmed Owen Wingrave, an opera created by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) specifically for TV.

Henry James’ ghost story Owen Wingrave tells an army family – the Wingraves – who have locked away a hideous secret in their grand house, Paramore. Owen is the heir; all hell breaks loose when he announces that the army isn’t for him.

Jennifer Vyvyan

Jennifer Vyvyan

Filmed over five September days, director Stephen Medcalf explains: “A minimal crew maintained distancing in intimate domestic interiors and COVID restrictions required the cast to costume themselves. I’ve given full rein to the satirical, often blackly comic aspects of the opera. Alongside that there are three serious themes: the pressure from society to conform; the courage it takes to stand up for who we really are; the destructive love of family.”

CEO Wasfi Kani says: “The opera requires a dozen interiors, which are well-nigh impossible to achieve on a theatre stage. However, filmed on location, we can have the Wingraves living in a real house, playing out their poisonous squabbles.”

In the words of Henry James: “A piece of ingenuity pure and simple, of cold artistic calculation, an amusette to catch those not easily caught.”

The opera is presented with the kind collaboration of Faber Music and The Britten Estate.

Britten did not own a TV when the work was broadcast on BBC2 on 16 May 1971. However, Decca presented him with a set two years later.

The work is an expression of Britten’s own pacifism, and was partly a response to the Vietnam War.

The Times ★★★★

“Wisely, Medcalf hasn’t attempted to ramp up the horror, although misty backdrops and artfully angular shots do occasionally recall those classic BBC adaptations of MR James (the black and white palette helps). Pragmatically, the setting is more or less present day, with the suggestion that young Wingrave is signing up for a pointless bloodbath in Afghanistan. The score is reduced to piano played by Chris Hopkins, and doom-laden strokes of percussion — the drums of war — from Craig Apps.”

Cast

OWEN WINGRAVE ∙ ROSS RAMGOBIN

MISS WINGRAVE, his aunt ∙ SUSAN BULLOCK

SIR PHILIP WINGRAVE, his grandfather ∙ RICHARD BERKELEY STEELE

Mr COYLE ∙ WILLIAM DAZELEY

MRS. COYLE ∙ JANIS KELLY

LECHMERE ∙ JAMES WAY

MRS. JULIAN ∙ MADELEINE PIERARD

KATE, her daughter ∙ KITTY WHATELY

NARRATOR ∙ RICHARD BERKELEY STEELE

Back to Interim Season

Sponsored: Hamish & Sophie Forsyth

DIRECTOR ∙ STEPHEN MEDCALF

CONDUCTOR ∙ JAMES HENSHAW

VIDEO PRODUCTION ∙ FINTAN O’CONNOR

SOUND ∙ TOM MARSHALL

PIANO ∙ CHRIS HOPKINS

PERCUSSION ∙ CRAIG APPS

The Daily Telegraph