Boston University College of Fine Arts Presents Owen Wingrave

in CFA, Music
February 12th, 2013

Opera Institute and School of Theatre at BU celebrate the centenary of Benjamin Britten with the Boston premiere of Benjamin Britten’s penultimate opera – February 21–24

Boston, MA – The School of Music Opera Institute and the School of Theatre at Boston University College of Fine Arts present the Boston premiere of Owen Wingrave, Benjamin Britten’s penultimate opera, in celebration of the composer’s 100th birthday.
Read an interview with conductor William Lumpkin and Director Jim Petosa on The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Owen Wingrave
MYFANWY PIPER, librettist
William Lumpkin, conductor
Jim Petosa, stage director
Thursday, February 21 – Sunday, February 24, 2013
Boston University Theatre (264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA)
Box Office: 617.933.8600 or
Tickets: $20 general public; $15 BU Alumni, WBUR and WGBH members, Huntington subscribers, and senior citizens; $5 students with valid ID. Two free tickets with BU ID at the door. Free Admission with Military ID.
Boston University Theatre
264 Huntington Avenue, Boston
Getting There:
T Green Line, E line, Symphony stop
T Orange Line, Mass Ave stop

Based on a short story by Henry James, Owen Wingrave is the story of a young pacifist who is tormented by the military traditions of his family. As he seeks to prove his courage, the story veers toward a collision with fate leading to unexpected consequences.

“Renowned for his greatly acclaimed and often produced adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Britten’s Owen Wingrave takes another story from that author, and provides audiences with a compelling tale of a young soldier’s awakening to pacifism,” said Jim Petosa, Director of the School of Theatre at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, and stage director for the production. “Bucking the military roots of a long family line of warriors, Owen’s moral conundrum resonates into the very stones of his family home, which groan with the ghosts of long ago warriors and one hapless victim of their brashness.”

Never before performed in Boston, Owen Wingrave is a characteristically rich and multi-layered work. Far from being mere propaganda, the supreme irony of Owen’s predicament comes forth while battling with his own family, he shows himself to be just as much of a fighter as his warmongering ancestors.

Commissioned by The Royal Opera House, Owen Wingrave was specifically conceived and composed as an opera for television. First broadcast in May 1971, the work makes use of several televisual techniques including cross-cutting, montage, and flashback. However, Owen Wingrave has proved to be no less viable for live performance than other Britten operas.

“Recognizing the terrific opportunity to study and perform an opera that is rarely performed, the singers, orchestra, and designers have dedicated themselves to this project with inspirational energy,” said William Lumpkin, Acting Director and Associate Professor of Music at the School of Music Opera Institute at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, and conductor for the production of Owen Wingrave. “We’re excited to share our experiences with the BU and Greater Boston Arts and Opera community through our upcoming performances.”

“We’ve worked to explore the more theatrical possibilities of the opera,” added Petosa, “taking it from the little screen to the big stage in a way that maintains its intimacy and clarity, while finding new pathways for its theatricality, ritual storytelling, and poetic sensibilities.”

The scoring of Owen Wingrave is similar to Britten’s chamber operas, making natural reduction from the original double woodwind, seven bass, three percussion, harp, piano, and strings ensemble necessary. There is no chorus, and the intimacy of the story suits chamber forces.

“One could argue that Britten’s unique adaptation of the Viennese 12 tone technique was a subversive reaction to the more mainstream British style his teachers attempted to instill throughout his formative years,” continued Lumpkin. “How perfect, then, that we find Britten’s “tonal atonal” technique as the basis for the opera, Owen Wingrave, a tale of an individual who rejects the ancestral heritage being forced upon him.”