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Television opera - that is, opera commissioned for television - was one of the earliest attempts by television to bridge the distinction between high culture and popular culture: between 1951 and 2002, in Britain and the United States, over fifty operas were commissioned for television. This book discusses three case studies, the first a live broadcast, the second a video recording, and the third a filmed opera made for television: Gian Carlo Metti's 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' (NBC, 1951; Benjamin Britten's 'Owen Wingrave' (BBC, 1971), taking into account Britten's earlier television experiences with 'The Turn of the Screw' (Associated Rediffusion, 1959) and 'Billy Budd' (NBC, 1952 and BBC 1966); and Gerald Barry's 'The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit' (1995), part of Channel 4's decision in 1989 to embark upon a series of six hour-long television operas. In each case, the composer's response to the demands of television, and his place within the production's hierarchy, are examined; and the effect of the formats and techniques peculiar to television on the process of composing are discussed. JENNIFER BARNES is Assistant Principal and Dean of Studies at Trinity College of Music, London. From its beginnings, television has relied on music to signal its message to the broadest market, and opera was a significant part of that plan. But whereas in opera the role of the composer is paramount and his vision provides the driving force, in opera commissioned for television there are other priorities, both practical and artistic. Over the decades, conflict of expectations, methods and authority have influenced the production of many television operas. To chart these changes, this work examines three, commissioned at twenty-year intervals - Metti's 'Amahl and the Night Visitors', Britten's 'Owen Wingrave' and Barry's 'Triumph of Beauty and Deceit. Over fifty operas have been commissioned for television since the early 1950s. Examining changes in television techniques, Jennifer Barnes considers their impact on the role of the composer and questions whether television, in its rapid evolution, has abandoned early indigeus production methods, and with that its secrets of writing and producing opera for television.
JENNIFER BARNES is Assistant Principal and Dean of Studies at Trinity College of Music, London.