Benjamin Britten

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Benjamin Britten
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Gloriana
PERFORMER: Josephine Barstow, Tom Randle, Emer McGilloway, David Ellis, Susannah Glanville, Eric Roberts, Clive Bayley; Chorus of Opera North; English Northern Philharmonic/Paul Daniel; dir. Phyllida Lloyd (BBC TV, 1999)


This is unquestionably among

the finest opera films ever made.

Phyllida Lloyd’s Opera North

staging vindicated this problematic

piece, but the film she also directed

– astonishingly, her first ever –

takes it to new heights of intensity.

Time constraints necessitated

swingeing cuts – the Norwich

masque with its famous dances, the

conspiracy scene – but comparing

this with the worthy ENO video

confirms that losing these propels

and intensifies the action, focusing

it closely on the protagonists. In an

interview at the time, Lloyd told

me that she’d become fascinated

by the parallels between the

opera and the grand show that

was the Elizabethan court, and

still more by Josephine Barstow’s

extraordinary identification with

the queen; her film merges both

worlds with emotional punch,

reinforced by the vivid recording.

Lloyd’s camera flows between

stage and backstage, identifying

stagehands with courtiers, on

stage among the singers, looking

down dizzyingly from the flies or

even out across pit and audience.

This is not gimmickry; it captures

the rhythm of the action and the

changing scenes with exciting


String Quartets Nos 2, 3 & 6

Takács Quartet

Decca 074 3141 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9

anamorphic) 92 mins

takács quartet

String Quartets by Beethoven,

Schubert & Haydn

Takács Quartet

Decca 074 3140 (NTSC system; dts 5.1;

16:9 anamorphic) 124 mins

These two sublime DVDs give us the

privilege of watching and hearing,

or it seems more like overhearing,

four great collaborating musicians

recreating six of the most magnificent

immediacy one moment, deep

intimacy the next, staring mirrorclose

into Barstow’s deeply expressive

features, or echoing a frequent stage

image showing Elizabeth caged by

her role, as when her dressing-room

walls turn translucent to betray the

court ladies gossiping.

The fine ensemble cast survives

such potentially cruel exposure

through sheer involvement, notably

Tom Randle, an ideally virile

Essex. Also outstanding are

Susanna Glanville’s Lady Rich, Eric

Roberts’ Cecil and Clive Bayley’s

sprightly Raleigh. Daniel conducts

a vividly theatrical performance

that banishes any hint of fustian or


pastiche pageantry about this score.