Benjamin Britten, Death in Venice. Peter Pears (Gustav von Aschenbach); John Shirley-Quirk (The Traveller, et al.) Members of the English Opera Group, English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Steuart Bedford.
Is it boorish to wish that Britten and Pears had been a little less devoted to each other? As in Billy Budd, it seems to me that the vocal writing in Death in Venice is superior for every part except the one composed for Pears. Here, it's the multiple roles for John Shirley-Quirk and the chorus of minor characters that make most of the vocal impact. Yes, Pears is dramatically intense, but if his voice had had more range and flexibility, mightn't the part have been given more musical challenges, resulting in a greater emotional variety? Still, this is a fascinating opera, here given what must be a definitive performance -- so why is it hard to get in the States?