Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures 2021
During three lectures focused on “Musical Identities,” for the Berlin Family Lectures 2021, Bostridge explored and evaluated some of the works at the very center of the classical vocal repertoire, asking how they construct identities—historically, poetically, and musically.
His first lecture, “Identity in Performance,” focused on three vocal works from disparate eras, which explore and use identity in different ways.
- Monteverdi's Renaissance work for narrator and instrumental ensemble, Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (the battle between Tancred and Clorinda);
- Robert Schumann's 1840 song cycle for voice and piano, Frauenliebe und Leben (A woman's life and love); and
- Benjamin Britten's 20th century "church opera" Curlew River, inspired by Japanese Noh theatre, in which a female protagonist is played by a male singer.
Bostridge’s second lecture explored “Hidden Histories” by taking as a case study Maurice Ravel's Chansons Madécasses (Songs of Madagascar), a staple of the vocal repertoire, originally composed in the 1920s.
The third and final lecture looked at identity's ultimate dissolution—death—and examined some of the ways in which classical composers have confronted it, in private and public mode. The lecture focused on three works by Benjamin Britten:
- The song cycle, The Holy Sonnets of John Donne (1945), written shortly after Britten's return from Bergen-Belsen;
- The War Requiem (1962); and
- Britten’s last opera based on the novella by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (1973).
The Humanities in Practice
The Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures bring to campus individuals who are making fundamental contributions to the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences.
Each visitor offers an extended series of 3–5 lectures and develops a book for publication with the University of Chicago Press.