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The Hidden Heart: A Life of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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(Feb 10, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

This fascinating documentary tells the story of leading British composer Benjamin Britten, focusing on his passionate relationship both to music and to his lifelong partner Peter Pears.

DVD Tracklist
1. Love Letters
2. Britten & Pears: Art and Life:- Part 1: Peter Grimes
3. Britten in America:- Part 1: Peter Grimes
4. Returning to Britain - "Peter Grimes"
5. 7 June 1945: The Premiere of Peter Grimes:- Part 1: Peter Grimes
6. A Legendary Premiere:- Part 1: Peter Grimes
7. Introduction:- Part II: War Requiem
8. Britten and Critics:- Part II: War Requiem
9. War Requiem & Peter Pears:- Part II: War Requiem
10. Galina Vishnevskaya and the War Requiem premiere:- Part II: War Requiem
11. Premiere at Coventry Cathedral:- Part II: War Requiem
12. Immediate and lasting impact:- Part II: War Requiem
13. Introduction:- Part III: Death in Venice
14. Britten's most personal statement:- Part III: Death in Venice
15. Confronting Demons:- Part III: Death in Venice
16. Heart surgery and the aftermath:- Part III: Death in Venice
17. The last weeks:- Part III: Death in Venice
18. A final love letter:- Part III: Death in Venice

Special Features


Product Details

  • Directors: Teresa Griffiths
  • Format: Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: German, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: EMI Classics
  • DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 78 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001IOMW7G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,836 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Top Customer Reviews

My wife and I have a special fondness for the works of composer Benjamin Britten and the career of tenor Peter Pears. We had thought this documentary would focus primarily on the great love and working relationship of these amazing gay men, and while it certainly remembers to go there on occasion (mainly at the beginning and at the end), REALLY it's a documentary about Britten creating three of his greatest works (and by extension, Peter Pears' role in these three works as the featured singer): "Peter Grimes," the "War Requiem," and "Death in Venice." Pears' importance as the primary voice of Britten's music and the great love of Britten's life is mentioned, but it is not really the focus of the film.

I would highly recommend this documentary for any serious fan of Britten's music, and of English music history. But it's only peripherally about their great partnership, their great marriage. Perhaps a fully-fleshed, respectful biographical film of Britten's life will come along at some point.
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This is a magnificent film. Presented in a kind of "three movement" sonata form, it focuses on Britten's and Pears' personal relationship more than Tony Palmer's excellent film, "A Time There Was". Much is revealed throughout about Britten's and Pears' love relationship. It's a comprehensive, moving study of their life together, revealed deliberatively without speculation, with the dignity both men deserve. Besides offering copious footage of Pears' incandescent singing -something Palmer's effort noticably lacks in measure- the three sections are charged through with music, each using a specific work of Britten's to tell the story. Comments from intimates, the dowager Countess of Cranbrook and critic John Amis among a unique group, seem tailored to match the mood of each segment. The working relationship between Auden and Britten is detailed, including Auden's letters. Director Teresa Griffith's vision and cool editing is a worthy mark of love for her subject and his music. Segment 2 offers a harrowing look at the War Requiem, with original footage of the premiere and vital commentary from Vishnevskaya, prevented by Soviet authorities from participating in premiering the music written for her. Britten and Pears were beloved by the Rostropovichs, and that is addressed, though no mention is made of the music Britten wrote for Rostropovich. And wow, what MUSIC! If you love Ben Britten's music, don't miss this! It's a thoughtful and attractive study with real heart of one of the giants of 20th c. music. Highest recommendation.
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The film is absolutely touching and moving. We all know Benjamin Britten as a musician and since it is not polite to speak of certain matters in front of people, it was more or less held secret or hushed up that he and Peter Pears were life-long lovers starting in 1939. This marvelous production brings out the secret life of Benjamin Britten without shattering the beauty of his inspiration. The fact that he was moved in his creative work by love and the love of one person only, makes his work even brighter.

It is this dimension of insecurity in life that is at work in his music all the time and this insecurity is constantly balanced by some power, strength, force that comes from within the music and that comes from the heart of one loved man. Britten's first opera, Peter Grimes, was the launching pad of Peter Pears and Britten last opera, Death in Venice, was entirely composed for Peter Pears as an old man trying to reflect on what was old age for Benjamin Britten. Two things were happening to him at the same time.

First he was sick, was operated upon and that was not brilliant, and then he was dying, for one thing. He composed with that death by composing an opera for his life-long lover. Death in Venice expresses the second experience Benjamin Britten was going through in his last years. He rediscovered the beauty of youth and he fell in love with that beauty, the beauty of the young Venetian boy that the old dying main character is watching and observing in his youth and in his youthful insouciance. That's probably the most important and most powerful experience an old man can live through. Suddenly his life changes.

It becomes full of light, full of the light of that youth he is looking at.
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This DVD paints a very good portrait of the extraordinary love and collaboration between these two artists. Both Britten and Pears were the muse that inspired the other to greatness. Having their story told within the context of three of Britten's most profound compositions clearly showed the impact their relationship had on their individual contributions to the creative process, while illustrating the respect and devotion they had for each other.
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