[Britten, Benjamin. (1913-76) & Pears, Peter. (1910-1986)] [Elizabeth II. (b. 1926)]

"Gloriana" - Original 1953 Premiere Program

Original program from the June 8, 1953 premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera Gloriana, presented at the Royal Opera House as part of the coronation celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II. The opera starred Peter Pears as Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, and Joan Cross as Queen Elizabeth I. The large souvenir program features color illustrations on the front and back covers and a gold tassel on the spine. Printed by Eaton Press, Liverpool.  Several large edge and spine tears and overall age wear and toning; else good. 10.5 x 15.5 inches (26.7 x 39.4 cm).

Although intended to honor the new Queen, Gloriana was one of Britten's few critical failures. Britten and librettist William Plomer had chosen to base the opera on Lytton Strachey's experimental 1928 biography Elizabeth and Essex, which contained a provocative psychoanalysis of the queen. According to Philip Brett, "...the downbeat ending, in which the aging, bald heroine muses on her mortality, only raised in the minds of a contemporary audience a spectre of empty and meaningless authority. Gloriana touched a national nerve-ending, and prompted not only its insecure dismissal by the first-night gala audience but also intensified the increasingly hostile response to Britten of the musical cognoscenti[.]" (New Grove.) (14302)

Program, unsigned