Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Christianity and Homosexuality in the Music of Benjamin Britten

Stephen Arthur Allen.

Benjamin Britten's operas consistently engage with the issue of salvation in Christian terms. Against this he selected dramas dealing with notions of 'sin' and questions of how the problem of guilt might be dealt with. Although, against the background of his biography, the specific issue at stake in Britten is homosexuality, he treated this subject in such a way that it could be universalised to incorporate any sense of alienation within society - an issue touching on his pacifism. This accounts for the huge international success of Britten's operas and music. Such themes remains high on the International agenda, especially given the current debate about the appointment of homosexual bishops and the modern churches position toward traditional notions of sin and repentance, issues of immense significance for the future. The power of Britten's music lies in his aesthetic exploration of music as an alternative (humanistic) kind of 'grace' that might supplant doctrinal, biblical types. This is part of a heritage extending back to Wagner, and Britten's pursuit of such ideas is undertaken with a clear eye and ear for mass-communication in later generations than his own. This paper will clearly draw out these themes in a manner that will engage the non-music specialist, while showing the continuing relevance of Britten's contribution to these areas of debate.


Stephen Arthur Allen

Rider University, NJ, USA

  • Britten
  • Benjamin
  • Christianity
  • Homosexuality
  • Sin
  • Redemption
Person as Subject
  • Britten, Benjamin

(Virtual Presentation, English)