From left to right: Edward Nelson as Owen Wingrave and Jason Weisinger as General Sir Phillip Wingrave in ‘Owen Wingrave.’ Photography by Mark Lyons.
CCM’s celebration of Benjamin Britten at 100 continues with the Cincinnati premiere of the composer’s penultimate opera Owen Wingrave, running Nov. 21-24 in Patricia Corbett Theater. CCM welcomes guest artist and alumnus Johannes Müller-Stosch to the podium for this Mainstage Series production, which features stage direction by CCM Professor of Voice Kenneth Shaw. The opera will be sung in English with supertitles.
Based on the 1893 Henry James short story of the same name and commissioned by the BBC in 1966, Owen Wingrave was completed for television in 1970. With music by Britten and a libretto by his frequent collaborator Myfanwy Piper, Shaw suggests that the opera offers “both drama and a touch of lightness, horror and hope, mystery and atmosphere, grandeur and intimacy.”
Owen Wingrave is often regarded as one of Britten’s most powerful scores. According to Shaw, the music of Owen Wingrave is exceptionally challenging, making it ideal for training students. The opera story is equally compelling and is centered on the titular Owen Wingrave, a pacifist born into a long line of military heroes who struggles to prove his inner strength to his disapproving family, even if it leads to his own mysterious end. “A secret is something that has resonance for all of us,” Shaw explains. “We keep secrets, and secrets are kept from us. For the Wingrave family, their secret doesn’t really have a full answer – it is a mystery.”