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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Britten's Children? Perhaps Britten's Boys would be better!, 28 May 2013
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This review is from: Britten's Children (Hardcover)
I read this book with great interest because I was a Britten 'child'. Sadly I did not make the 'cut' because I was a girl and like all girls at Aldeburgh I was there but not seen! The problem seems to be that John Bridcut never looked and he should have done because it makes a big difference. In fact it can alter the way in which we judge this famous and in some way infamous composer. Britten liked both. He was a perfect gentleman who liked children, girls and boys and didn't have any of his own.

Bridcut was not only one in overlooking Britten's women. Carpenter did the same until years after publication I got in touch and he was horrified at his oversight. It is just that sometimes biographers see what they want to see and never look for contrary evidence that might alter their narrative. I mean 'everyone' knows Britten was 'gay', 'everyone' says so but Britten didn't. He said he was normal! I wouldn't go quite that far but he did like ladies too and this does make a difference.

I knew Britten well. I was his favourite for over five years. I worked for him for the first performance of 'Noyes Fludde' with Michael Crawford who too hardly features in this book but after Hemmings was a tremendous favourite . I was Britten's first young 'Flora' in 'The Turn of the Screw'. Britten had looked for a 'Flora' for years and had put 'The Screw' on the shelf until he found one. Once he did he saw to it that I was looked after by doing it himself. I was there for five years and yet nobody saw me until now! Britten watched me grow up!

So how many other children were missed out?

However I still give it a four stars as it is an interesting read and well worth the money.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 May 2013 12:02:09 BDT
Why didn't you sing Flora eventually?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 May 2013 21:00:56 BDT
Hi There! I think you may have misread. I sang 'Flora' on UK TV and at the Aldeburgh Festival. I never thought then that what to me at the time looked a 'small job' would be with me today. Life has many surprises. Eventually I grew to be too tall but Britten still kept me around.

Hope this answers your question.

Janette Miller/Heffernan

In reply to an earlier post on 30 May 2013 12:33:26 BDT
Thank you for your answer and please excuse my misreading. Was it the 1959 TV production? And was it the Aldeburgh Festival of the same year?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 May 2013 23:38:12 BDT
Yes! I was privileged to be a part of Peter Morley's Associated Rediffusion production in 1959 which has become very famous for an act of artistic vandalism when Boosey and Hawkes insisted it was destroyed. Fortunately someone had the good sense to save a copy.

Yes I was in the 1961 productions at Aldeburgh and Rosehill but by then I was really too tall and too adult. You need a young 'Flora' for the full horror. An adult however small does not do and Britten knew this. It was only years later that I worked it out too. Most scholars never have.

Posted on 12 Sep 2013 16:20:44 BDT
J Payne says:
That was a fascinating review, from someone with personal knowledge. But I would question a couple of things. Despite Britten being 'gay' (as most people would define the term), is it really so unexpected that he had close female friends? I've known several gay men who liked women very much, if not sexually, and had deep long-term friendships with them. And some of my staunchly heterosexual male friends would admit that, deep down, they don't actually like women very much - as people, rather than bedmates. So that's not really a paradox. As for children: I would define a paedophile, whether straight or gay, as someone who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children. I'm sure many average men (and women) might feel attracted to young, physically mature teenagers who happen to fall below the current 'age of consent'. By that criterion, I don't see Britten as a paedophile (though perhaps an 'ephebophile', as the classicists might say).

Posted on 9 Jun 2015 22:09:05 BDT
Oral Balm says:
Thank you for that extraordinarily interesting review. J Payne has made some points with which I think I'd concur.

I have just watched your homage to Flora: I had no idea this recording existed - though I understand B&H tried to destroy it. I think i agree that, certainly in your performance, she is a much fuller character, and a more central one, than I had thought. I was reminded strongly, in fact, of Jean Simmons as Estrella in David Lean's Great Expectations. And I thought your speculations about her sexuality, and her shrewdness and manipulativeness, were bold and suggestive. It certainly adds to the richness and complexity of one's experience of the opera. It's almost as if Miles is something of a red herring. What a pity Britten's recording is such an inexplicable disaster.

Posted on 18 Feb 2016 11:00:09 GMT
Wilus says:
This is extremely interesting, and worth at least a journal article somewhere. Perhaps you should write it!
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