Benjamin Britten: My Beloved Is Mine

Written by Alex Mansoori


In category: Song of the Day

Published November 14, 2019

Despite many of his compositions having Christian themes, Benjamin Britten had an ambivalent view of the religion. His partner Peter Pears recalled that when they met, he’s not sure if Britten would consider himself a Christian. Later in life, Britten himself would describe himself as a dedicated Christian, but would also be sympathetic to certain dissenting opinions. Among his religious works are five canticles based of different texts, several of which were non-sacred. 

“Canticle I: My Beloved is Mine” was written in 1947 for the memorial concert of Dick Sheppard, former Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-fields. Based on the Song of Solomon, the text comes from “A Divine Rapture” by Francis Quarles. The music paints Quarles flowing text in different moods and ends with a restatement of the main theme “I my best beloveds am, so he is mine.” In the original text, no doubt that Quarles was referring to God. However, Britten’s is obviously referring to Pears, who it was written for. 

Here is my favorite recording of the work, with tenor Philip Langridge and Steuart Bedford at the piano.

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Called “outstanding” and “hilarious” by critics, tenor Alex Mansoori has been hailed as “solid and convincing” and “smartly characterized” by The New York Times. Specializing in character tenor roles, Mr. Mansoori’s varied repertoire runs the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Bernstein and Sondheim. Some of his credits include appearances with Seattle Opera, Opera Colorado, Chicago Opera Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, Ravinia Festival and the Tanglewood Festival. He has had a long relationship with New York Festival of Song, appearing with them since his Juilliard days, and will return in its Blitzstein / Weill double bill on November 19.


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