My loyal companion Aaron writes from his exile in Oregon to suggest that opera fans here on JMG would enjoy Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten, which comes out today. A review in the Guardian UK headlined Boys, Bitching, Brilliance notes:
Benjamin Britten’s early years are often ignored, overshadowed by the spectacular success of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, when he was 31. But now, the diaries the composer kept for a decade from the age of 14 are to be published and they reveal a lonely but driven schoolboy; a young man exposed to a glamorous world of metropolitan homosexuality; and an artist of stupendous talent, with uncompromising opinions of fellow musicians. The later parts of the diaries reveal Britten trying to navigate his sexuality, often with the help of older gay friends. He becomes close to the tenor Peter Pears – “one of the nicest people I know” – but it was only later, during the second world war, that the two fell in love. He finds himself the object of the desires of composer Lennox Berkeley, who would later become the father of composer Michael Berkeley. According to the diaries’ editor, John Evans, Berkeley was “besotted” with Britten, despite being kept at arm’s length. “He is a dear & I am very, very fond of him; nevertheless, it is a comfort that we can arrange sexual matters at least to my satisfaction,” wrote Britten.
According to the review, Britten’s diaries also catalog his relationship with Christopher Isherwood and his experiences in London’s bathhouses of the 1930’s.