- A Midsummer Night's Dream, opera, Op. 64
- Phaedra, dramatic cantata for mezzo-soprano, string orchestra, percussion & harpsichord, Op. 93
- The Rape of Lucretia, chamber opera, Op. 37
- Turn of the Screw, chamber opera, Op. 54
- Death in Venice, opera, Op. 88
- Gloriana, opera, Op. 53
This second volume completes Decca's compact reissue of Britten conducting his own operas. As with the first volume, it is a self-recommending testament to the synergy of Britten's talents as a composer and conductor, and his continuing preeminence as a recorded interpreter of his own music. Because Britten never completed recordings of his "Death in Venice" and "Gloriana," Decca has wisely included the recordings made by Steuart Bedford ("Death in Venice") and Charles Mackerras ("Gloriana") for the sake of completeness. Only "Gloriana" seems out of place, and then only because it was recorded more than 20 years after any other work in the collection and therefore has far better sound. As is the case with Volume I, every performance here can be considered definitive in its dramatic and musical conception, though not necessarily preferable to all listeners: those who want warmer sound quality and more uniformly beautiful singing might gravitate toward newer performances, especially for the popular works like "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Turn of the Screw," which have received multiple recordings in the digital era. But if dramatic effectiveness, textual clarity, and sharpness of characterization are tops on your list (and it's hard not to put them there when considering Britten's operas), these recordings remain unsurpassed. The achievement represented here is easiest to understand when one considers the absence of any printed texts or libretti -- and the fact that you don't need them. Britten lays each word, each phrase, and ultimately each entire work in your lap and leaves it for you to enjoy.
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